Proudly taking a little piece of Pōneke home

By Alicia Harris | December 7, 2023

Ever wondered how gift stores are curated? Pictured, the ‘I need my Space’ range of products at Space Place in Wellington.

I came across a couple of cruise ship passengers at Cable Car Museum a couple of weeks ago, on a typically blustery Wellington day. One of the women picked up a T-shirt featuring the word Wellington being buffeted by gusty clouds and said, “Look it’s Wellington! And it really is windy!” and they burst out laughing.

They only docked in Wellington Harbour for a day, but they’ll take that moment away with them and always remember when they were in Wellington it was wild and windy, but beautiful. It’s a great example of how we can make an immediate impact and connection between our place and the people who visit our cultural institutions like Cable Car Museum, City Gallery, Wellington Museum, Capital E, Nairn St Cottage and Space Place.

‘Tis the season to be ticking off Christmas gift lists for most people, but like many on the other side of the counter we’ve been planning for months and have a very clear intention behind our gift store approach. It’s important to us because Experience Wellington is Wellington Museums Trust, a registered charity and our retail revenue, venue hire and donations help us to continue to bring remarkable experiences to people in the city.

We want our gift shops to be an extension of our visitors’ experience, rather than just an add on, ‘do you want fries with that?’ We deliberately offer keepsakes that mirror the stories we tell within our walls, with three quarters of our products celebrating Pōneke by promoting local creatives and Māori makers. We are a creative capital, with creativity spilling into our cracks and alleyways, independent pop-up shops and markets. I feel really lucky we have the bricks and mortar to champion our city’s makers’ skills in our spaces. Showing creativity is still an essential part of our capital city’s DNA.

We drive revenue back into our creative communities by featuring plenty of quality local brands including books from Huia Publishers, Apostle hot sauces, chocolate from Wellington Chocolate Factory and Wonderland, National Candles and timo and toki made by Paku. We’re equally proud of the products designed by our in-house team. We found our Wellington travel poster was a big hit during the Covid-19 pandemic and our exclusive ranges have blossomed from there.

We put a lot of thought into these lines, like our Wahine Mīharo range created to champion women around the time of the Fifa Women’s World Cup. It’s a product we thought women would buy to treat themselves but when a Dad came in asking for help to find his daughter’s size, we realised the range was also a way for people to celebrate their daughters, partners, mothers and other important women in their lives.

That moment of connection and making people happy is always something I look out for and regularly see at Space Place where our ‘I need my Space’ range of products is flying out the door. It makes everyone laugh, although they interpret the message in different ways. Some want to make a statement about looking after themselves, some love anything to do with space and others are just tickled by an astronaut taking a moment on the moon to sit on a deck chair.

If you’re looking for a gift this holiday season, consider taking home a piece of Pōneke and thinking about supporting the many stores in our city that champion local makers. We consider it our responsibility to celebrate our city. You can, too.

Experience Wellington’s Wahine Mīharo range was created to champion women around the time of the Fifa Women’s World Cup.

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