Wellington Scoop

Te Papa reopens, but limiting numbers

Te Papa has decided to stay closed on Monday. It will not reopen till Tuesday.

It advises:

We will reopen at 10am on Tuesday. Most of our exhibitions and spaces will be open, with some interactive displays closed off.

The Surrealist Art exhibition will be open. A maximum 78 people will be allowed in the exhibition at a time, to enable the recommended distancing between people.

We will re-open under our established Alert Level 2 settings and will move to Alert Level 1 settings when Wellington does. Some additional measures will also be in place.

Tumu Whakarae | Chief Executive Courtney Johnston said the museum was looking forward to welcoming back its visitors. “We deep cleaned the building last week and have been looking forward to opening our doors again. Te Papa can open safety under alert level two. The key thing for us is having enough staff on the floor, while a number of our team are waiting for test results.

“With sufficient test results now coming in, we have enough staff who have tested negative to welcome and care for our visitors.”

Te Papa’s Kaihautū | Māori co-leader Dr Arapata Hakiwai said the well-being of visitors and staff was paramount. “Te Papa is all about manaakitanga, caring for our visitors, and that means caring for our team too. “The health of our community is our number one focus, and we have worked with health authorities to do whatever we can to support the health of Aotearoa.”

While Te Papa was closed over the weekend, it made its carpark available to health authorities as a temporary covid testing station.

Karakia are being held for the re-opening of the museum to staff on Monday, and a further karakia will be held on Tuesday before the museum opens to the public.

Te Papa under Alert Level 2

Limit of 900 people allowed in the museum at a time
All visitors must scan in, or check in manually
Distancing required
Gatherings limited to 100 people (e.g. conferences, events)
Cafes operate under Alert Level 2 rules
Coat and bag storage not available
Additional cleaning throughout the museum.

We are putting additional measures in place which will apply under Alert Levels 1 and 2. These measures provide extra assurance to the public. They are in place until 6pm Saturday 3 July – this is “day 14” since the museum became a location of interest, and is the day when all Te Papa staff are due to finish self-isolation. The measures will be reviewed at that time and may change.

Extra measures in place in addition to alert level one and two settings:

Limit of 78 people in Surrealist Art at a time (previously was 270 per hour)
High-touch interactive in Surrealist Art closed
Distancing in queue to enter Surrealist Art
Additional cleaning throughout the museum including in Surrealist Art

Wellington.Scoop – June 24
Te Papa will be closed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and is not yet sure whether it will be able to open on Monday.

The national museum faces a staff shortage because so many of its staff are isolating after the weekend visit by a covid-infected Australian tourist.

Its message this afternoon:

Te Papa will be closed Fri, Sat and Sun while we wait on covid test results for staff. We will let you know by Mon 9am whether we will be open. Kia piki te ora ki a tātou, stay well everyone.

Wellington.Scoop – June 23
Te Papa closed today after learning that the infected Sydney tourist visited the national museum on Saturday afternoon.

The Ministry of Health has issued the following instructions:

Anyone who was at the surrealist exhibition at Te Papa Tongarewa, 55 Cable Street, 4pm to 5.45pm on Saturday – isolate/quarantine for 14 days from last exposure. Test immediately (unless it’s within 1 day of the next scheduled test), and on day 5 after last exposure and day 12 after last exposure.

Anyone else who was at Te Papa Tongarewa 3.05pm to 5.45pm on Saturday – get a test around Day 5 after last exposure and stay at home until negative test result is received. Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days.

The requirement to isolate and stay at home will also affect a number of Te Papa staff who were working on Saturday.

News from Te Papa
Te Papa is closed to the public today to protect the public from the risk of covid 19. A traveller from Sydney who visited Te Papa on Saturday tested positive for covid 19 on their return to Australia.

An estimated 2000 – 2500 people who visited Te Papa around the time in question need to follow the Ministry of Health’s advice, depending on their circumstances.

People who visited Te Papa’s Surrealist Art exhibition between 4.00pm and 5.45pm on Saturday need to self-isolate for 14 days. These people need to undertake testing as detailed by the Ministry of Health. Up to 600 people visited the exhibition during that time.

People who visited any part of Te Papa between 3.05pm and 5.45pm on Saturday need to undertake testing as detailed by the Ministry of Health. An estimated 2,000 – 2,500 people would have passed through the museum during that time (including those who visited Surrealist Art).

Details of what people in the different categories should do are here:


The museum is closed to visitors and staff for today and tomorrow. The closure enables the museum to deep clean its exhibitions and building, and take all the steps needed to care for visitors and staff.

Te Papa Chief Executive | Tumu Whakarae Courtney Johnston said the museum would ensure everything was done to protect the community. “The well-being of our visitors and our staff is of the utmost importance. We have detailed plans in place and we know what we need to do to protect our manuhiri and the community,” says Ms Johnston.

The museum is identifying which Te Papa staff were close contacts and casual contacts.

“The Ministry of Health has very clear guidelines about what close contacts and casual contacts should do, and we will support our people to follow these to the letter. We are a very close whānau at Te Papa, and we really care about our visitors, so we will be doing absolutely everything we can to put the health and safety of people first,” Ms Johnston says.

Courtney Johnston is herself a close contact as she was in the exhibition on Saturday afternoon. In accordance with Ministry of Health advice she is self-isolating and working from home.

Ms Johnston said Te Papa is in contact with the owners of the Surrealist Art exhibition to keep them informed. “We will be in close contact with the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen who own the Surrealist Art collection, to ensure they are up to date with the actions we are taking.”

Te Papa learned it was a location of interest this morning when the information was made public by the Ministry of Health. “We have been contacted by Regional Public Health, we are following their advice and we appreciate their support in ensuring we take all the steps necessary,” Ms Johnston said.

Te Papa will do everything it can to support the contact tracing efforts of health authorities.

The museum marked the closure of the museum with a karakia offering protection to visitors, staff, the community and the taonga in Te Papa’s care.


  1. Patrick Crewdson, 23. June 2021, 17:06

    The museum estimates about 2000-2500 people visited it in the affected time period on Saturday, and up to 600 of those people visited the surrealists exhibition. [via twitter]

  2. Hel, 23. June 2021, 17:27

    I was surprised by the sequence of events where Radio NZ were reporting they had contacted Te Papa this morning to learn the MOH had yet to be in touch, yet MOH were aware of the issue earlier the previous evening. Feels a bit complacent by MOH.

  3. Georgina Campbell, 23. June 2021, 17:49

    Te Papa is unsure how many of its 600 staff will be required to self-isolate, and whether there will be enough people left on deck to reopen the museum after a deep clean. [via twitter]