Te Papa’s new Te Taiao Nature exhibition, designed by Carterton’s

. PHOTO/MAARTEN HOLL – TE PAPA

SAM TATTERSFIELD
sam.tattersfield@age.co.nz

Jen Craddock’s job is to make Te Papa exhibitions the best they can be.

“Making it accessible, making it memorable, and also thinking ‘Okay, we have this story to tell, is that going to become a really rich display of collection objects, or is it going to become a digital experience, or is it going to become a hands-on interactive?’”

Jen Craddock. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“So those kinds of decisions – taking the big ideas and turning them into something concrete on the floor.”

On Saturday, she opened the biggest change to Te Papa since it opened in 1998 – the entire first floor except the Gallipoli exhibition is all completely new.

She’s lived in Carterton since 2011 and has worked on this project for three years.

“I love living in Wairarapa, and I love my community.

It’s amazing.

“But I’ve spent a lot of time on the train over the last three years, so it’s really great to see that it’s all been worth it. I’m looking forward to spending more time back in Wairarapa now.”

The exhibition, Te Taiao Nature, replaces Awesome Forces and Mountains to Sea.

Craddock said those nature exhibitions “were wonderful, but they really didn’t look at our role in being kaitiaki [guardians, or caregivers]”.

Te Taiao Nature, which comes with a price tag of $12 million, tackles daunting, serious topics like climate change, pest control, and water pollution.

Craddock’s job was to make that inspiring, hopeful, and positive, while not shying away from the problem.

Easy, right?

Craddock’s answer was “to focus on positivity and what people can do, and really encouraging that emotional connection with what we have to treasure”.

“It’s actually three exhibitions in one – you’ll find lots of spaces that do feel like sanctuaries.

“There are lovely places still to connect with beautiful objects, to be inspired by amazing footage of albatrosses for example. There are places where you can look out over bush city – one thing we’ve done is open up the windows to outside.”

Being from Wairarapa, Craddock said working on the exhibition had a personal element too – Wairarapa was one of the last places the huia bird call was heard, a bird call that’s been recreated for a new sound display in the exhibition.

Craddock is now going to have a well-earned break, before moving on to fresh ideas.