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Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa launches $1 million innovation hub Mahuki

Wellington’s Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa has today launched a new innovation hub, Mahuki, which will look to offer local entrepreneurs a residential program through which they can develop new products and experiences for the culture, heritage, and learning sectors.

The $1 million hub, the name of which can be translated as ‘perceptive’, has been launched in conjunction with Vodafone New Zealand, which has invested $150,000 into the venture. The program will see 40 entrepreneurs spend a four month intensive residency developing their projects, working with Te Papa’s experts and collections to solve real-world problems and testing their work with the museum’s visitors.

Rick Ellis, chief executive of Te Papa, said the innovation hub model will enable the museum to tap into the creativity of New Zealand companies and make the most dramatic changes Te Papa has seen since it first opened.

“Te Papa has always been a creative powerhouse, and working with these exciting companies will bring new ideas into the mix. We have done our homework and we know there is a need to support innovations for the cultural sector, both globally and locally. Mahuki is a place where New Zealanders can develop the next big thing for the New Zealand cultural sector, and export it to the world,” he said.

“The kinds of innovations we are looking for will enable New Zealanders to access their national collections in new ways, and activate new kinds of storytelling. Mahuki will create incredible new experiences to touch the hearts and minds of New Zealanders. When we see old soldiers in their 80s poring over a 3D digital map of Gallipoli with tears in their eyes – that’s the kind of impact we are looking for.”

Te Papa will take a 6 percent equity stake in companies coming into Mahuki in exchange for $20,000 in seed funding. Te Papa will also have the right to acquire products developed at Mahuki.

With half of the museum’s funding coming from government and half from commercial revenue, Ellis said the museum is confident the arrangements it will enter into with resident companies will “make sense for both sides.”

While museums are perhaps not the first institutions that spring to mind when many of us think innovation, museums around the world have over the last few years been dedicated to implementing new technologies to create more engaging experiences for tech-savvy visitors. New York City’s New Museum, for example, launched NEW INC in 2014, an incubator designed to support creatives working in the areas of art, technology, and ideas.

Several Australian startups are also working in the museum space. Canberra’s Quizling, for example, has created a platform that allows teachers to design quizzes for students. As well as schools, it has been taken on institutions including The National Library, The Royal Australian Mint, Inspiring Australia, National Sports Museum, and the National Gallery of Australia, who are looking to engage with younger visitors in new ways.

The first Mahuki program is scheduled to kick off in August.

Image: Inside Te Papa. Source: Wellington – Tourism Media.