Image: Timeline wall at the He Tohu exhibition.

Find out what you will see and experience when you come to the He Tohu exhibition. Read about the awards that He Tohu exhibition has won.

Constitutional documents that shape Aotearoa New Zealand

He Tohu is a permanent exhibition of 3 iconic constitutional documents that shape Aotearoa New Zealand.

The 3 documents are the:

  • 1835 He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni – Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand
  • 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi
  • 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine, and preserves these powerful taonga for future generations.

The name He Tohu means 'the signs', and refers to the unique signatures or marks of those who supported these documents. For Māori these tohu are sacred as those who signed have added their mana.

The exhibition objectives are to:

  • Preserve our fragile and irreplaceable documentary heritage for future generations.
  • Improve access to these taonga for all New Zealanders and visitors to our country.
  • Enhance learning opportunities for young New Zealanders.

See the original documents

The declaration, treaty and petition are displayed in state-of-the-art display cases in a specially built room — the waka huia. These cases allow greater visual access and the climate conditions in the cases which will ensure the documents’ long-term preservation.

Entrance to He Tohu and the carved wooden exterior of the waka huia.
Image: Entrance to He Tohu and the outside of the waka huia.

Surrounding the waka huia is an interactive area telling the stories of the documents. There are interactive features to get up close and personal with the documents, and for people to trace the life-stories of the signatories and discovering their own family connections.

Find out more about each document featured at He Tohu:

1835 A declaration: He Whakaputanga

1840 A treaty: Te Tiriti o Waitangi

1893 Women's Suffrage Petition

Representing He Tohu

Patuone, Te Rangi Topeora and Kate Sheppard were chosen for He Tohu’s marketing campaign because of their connection to the 3 taonga, their mana and leadership displayed at the time and because they are celebrated by descendants.


In creating these artworks, we consulted descendants and experts on the lives of these remarkable people. Our approach was also informed by the He Tohu Māori Technical Advisory Group, Women’s Suffrage Petition Advisory Group and by iwi leaders.

He Tohu awards

We are very proud of the He Tohu exhibition and are thrilled other people think it is great. Here are some of the awards we have won.

Designer Institute of NZ Best Awards 2017

An annual showcase of excellence in graphic, spatial, product, interactive and motion design along with four boutique awards.

We won:

  • ‘Best of the Best’ Purple Pin Award and a Gold Pin for Exhibition — Spatial Design in Public and Institutional spaces
  • Gold in Nga Aho category
  • Silver in Illustration
  • Bronze in Typography, Public Good Award, and Interactive Applications.

Designer Institute of NZ Best Awards 2017

Axis Awards 2018

The Comms Council Axis awards recognise creative excellence in New Zealand.

We won:

  • Silver for Design 360
  • Bronze for Image in Art Direction and Typography

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Gold Quill Awards 2018

An annual recognition of excellence in strategic communication worldwide.

  • Excellence in Marketing, Advertising and Brand Communication
  • Merit in Media Relations

Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia and New Zealand (IESANZ) Lighting Awards

We won:

  • Excellence Lighting Design Award