Inside Hīnātore, Te Papa's new high-tech learning lab

The days of clunky projector slideshows and VHS videos on the life cycles of elephants are things of the past. And we can partially blame Te Papa for that.

Te Papa has transformed its learning programmes and space, creating Hīnātore, a new learning lab. But this isn’t just any museum-based learning lab. It’s a learning lab with enough cutting-edge gizmos – and the ability for those cutting-edge gizmos to be upgraded and replaced with more cutting-edge gizmos – to make even Captain Kirk’s USS Enterprise look downright clunky by comparison.

Māori for phosphorescence or luminescence, Hīnātore refers to a twinkling or glimmering in the dark. It symbolises the awakenings of understanding; the shimmering first lights of inspiration that mark the beginning of a learning journey. Hīnātore’s learning programmes are for learners of all ages, and are delivered through interactive public workshops, drop in sessions and school programmes. It’s equipped with a VR (Virtual Reality) studio, 3D printers, 3D scanners, touch tables, and telepresence technologies that enable learners to connect in real time with learners around the globe. Te Papa’s collections, exhibitions and taonga are also at the heart of Hīnātore’s learning programmes, allowing learners to experience anything from voyaging the Pacific in waka, to creating digital art in an immersive world.

Photo: Mike O'Neill

Te Papa head of learning innovation Miri Young is certainly excited. “Hīnātore offers rich learning experiences to a wide range of visitors in an incredibly inspiring space,” she explains. “The range of technologies in the lab allows us all to learn in completely new ways. The focus is on learning and engaging with Te Papa’s taonga and collections, through this new and exciting technology. It connects learners with one other, and with New Zealand’s scientific, arts and cultural collections and taonga."

Photo: Mike O'Neill

And that’s not all, she says. “We’re building maker mindsets in learners of all ages, developing core competencies in collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. It’s dynamic, hands-on Hīnātore (STEAM)-based learning.’

Hīnātore will host school visits and workshops and learning programmes for visitors of all ages, such as Te Papa Talks: Virtual Realities this weekend (17-20 March) and a new school holiday programme in April.

Photo: Mike O'Neill

During a recent school programme, students from Newlands Intermediate School gave students at Wooranna Park Primary School in Melbourne a virtual tour of Te Papa using Google Hangout. “New Zealanders learning about, creating with, and sharing our nation’s collections through new and emerging technology is what Hīnātore is all about. It was a great learning opportunity for students from both schools,” says Young.

Photo: Mike O'Neill

School groups unable to physically visit the national museum are able to participate on a Virtual Excursion using telepresence technology to explore Te Papa’s exhibitions remotely with an educator in a unique and exciting way, says Young. “We’re excited to enable access to remote students to virtually visit Te Papa as part of their classroom learning.”

Photo: Mike O'Neill

Te Papa has made an initial investment of $495,000 in Hīnātore. Supporting partners of the learning lab are Victoria University of Wellington, Staples Advantage, Pelorus Trust and The Lions Foundation.