25 Mar 2014

Whale taonga draws crowds in US

6:33 am on 25 March 2014

A migrating exhibition of deadly weapons made out of bones, teeth necklaces, and whale-rider legends such as Paikea, has attracted more than 1.5 million visitors in the United States.

Whales:Tohora, is the national museum's longest-touring exhibition and has drawn more than 500,000 people to New York's American Museum of Natural History alone.

Te Papa kaihautu Arapata Hakiwai says the exhibition's point of difference is its combination of western science with Maori education.

Legends such as the whale-rider Paikea are crucial parts of iwi identity and are displayed alongside scientific knowledge of whales like strandings.

Mr Hakiwai says collecting all the taonga and knowledge for Whales:Tohora took years and involved consultation with 16 different iwi.