Museums Wellington comprises four of the city’s leading visitor attractions – Wellington Museum, Space Place, Cable Car Museum and Nairn Street Cottage. Collectively the museums attract nearly 400,000 visitors every year. The collections are diverse, including everything from a piece of moon rock to Rusty the last taxidermy Lion from the Zoo.
Museums Wellington are part of Experience Wellington, a registered charity and a Council Controlled Organisation established by Wellington City Council to develop and manage Wellington’s cultural and arts assets. It is a unique combination of visitor experiences that collaborate and draw upon each other’s strengths, skills and knowledge to deliver excellent visitor experiences that contribute to Wellington’s economy and to its liveability and reputation as a centre of excellence for arts, culture and creativity.
Formerly the Bond Store and Head Office for the Wellington Harbour Board, the Museum building was opened on the 24 March 1892. Wellington Museum is home to many precious objects that trace this region’s past, present and future. It is the only museum devoted to sharing this region’s stories, from the first adventurers, to the adventurous spirits that still call it home. Now the second oldest building on the Waterfront and a registered Category One Heritage New Zealand building, it is a priceless national treasure and one of the most architecturally significant heritage buildings in the country.
Located at the top of the Cable Car, Space Place is housed in Carter Observatory, New Zealand’s longest-serving national observatory. Opened in 1937 thanks in part to a bequest from politician, farmer and philanthropist Charles Rooking Carter, the Observatory quickly established itself as a base for astronomical research. Over the years, its focus has changed and in 2010, it reopened as a visitor attraction. As Space Place, it offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with the starry night sky and see how their little nation has made a huge contribution to our understanding of space.
NAIRN STREET COTTAGE
Home to the Wallis family who emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1857, Nairn Street Cottage is Wellington’s oldest known home. It remained in family ownership until the 1970s, when – earmarked for demolition – the original owner’s granddaughter successfully fought the order with the help of the newly formed Colonial Cottage Museum Society. The Colonial Cottage was the first ‘house’ museum in Wellington, and since opening in 1980 has had its facilities improved with the building of a new interpretation centre in 1999. It is registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as having ‘outstanding significance’.
CABLE CAR MUSEUM
Earmarked for demolition in the 1970s when new technology rendered the Winding House as surplus to requirements, the building found a new purpose in recent years as the Cable Car Museum. Built in 1902 to accommodate the steam engine and winding gear and to serve as a maintenance depot for the grip cars, the Winding House now brings to life the unique transport system that has transported people between the harbour and the hills for more than a century.