Creative Storage Solutions for Beloved Taonga

Monday, 2 September 2019

When the Bath House building, home to Rotorua Museum, had to close in November 2016 following the Kaikoura earthquake, immediate steps were taken to ensure the safety of all taonga (treasures) remaining in the building. Following lots of planning the final items were removed in October 2018.

While some taonga returned to Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington and Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, the majority of taonga returned to Rotorua Museum Offsite Storage Facility.

With an already full building the Rotorua Museum Collection team have had to get creative and design efficient and safe storage to house the extra taonga.

Cantilever Shelving Unit for Taonga

New shelving would accommodate the larger taonga re-located from the Bath House building, whilst also providing alternative storage for taonga already in the store.

With space in the store already limited utilising the store’s height was a practical solution.

The shelving needed to be robust enough and long enough to house large scale taonga, and provide open storage where taonga would be easily accessible.

The Museum engaged specialist Dexion Storage Solutions who were able to accommodate our needs and designed an 11m long cantilever shelving unit with 5 shelves.

This unit was installed in two stages with final completion in January 2019.

Taonga Rotorua Museum

Taonga racks Rotorua Museum

Cloak Drawer Storage

The Museum cares for a collection of about 75 Māori textile items ranging from various cloaks, piupiu and whāriki.

The six large exisiting wooden cloak drawer units, with 8 drawers per unit, only allowed for storage of 48 textiles in total. Due to space constraints some drawers housed two medium to large sized items or up to four small textile items per drawer which created access challenges.

With all of the drawers at full capacity there was no room for growth of the collection. The exisiting drawer units measure 1.5m wide x 1.7m deep and take up a large footprint in the already full storage area.

Cloak units Rotorua Museum

The new cloak drawer design needed to be sustainable, reduce the foot print in the store, increase the storage capacity within each unit (allowing items to be housed individually on each shelf) whilst creating room for future growth. Quite a big ask!

The Collections team engaged with shelving company Hydestor to come up with a cloak drawer design to accomodate our needs.

Initial discussions began June last year and after much consultation and reviewing of concept designs the new cloak drawer units were finally installed in April 2019.

The massive task of relocating each individual textile item from each drawer to the new units is in its final stage of completion.

Visits to the museums offsite storage facility to view taonga can be arranged by appointment only. Please contact Manaaki Pene, Collection Curator Taonga Māori at


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