If you want to experience authentic Cook Islands material culture to understand how traditional maori society functioned, take yourself to Museum Cook Islands, located down Makea Tinirau Rd, opposite the University of the South Pacific, in an historic part of Avarua, sometimes referred to as the ‘creative hub’ of Rarotonga.

Built in 1963, the facility (a combined library & museum) was the first of its kind in the Cook Islands. It was largely built with funds raised by interested parties in the community, on land donated by the then ariki (chief) of the district, Makea Nui Teremoana Ariki. The building was opened by her on 22 December 1964. The exhibits in the museum were set up by one Mr Riccarton of Canterbury Museum, New Zealand.

Prior to this, a call had gone out to all islands in the Cook Islands for authentic artifacts to put in the museum. The call was heeded and many of the rare, remaining wooden and stone artifacts in these islands were donated to the museum.

Wooden items include spears, ceremonial adzes, kumete (bowls), tiki-atua (gods), urunga rakau (headrests), and an atamira (chief’s seat). Stone items include a ceremonial orb, slingstones, canoe anchors, adzeheads, and penu (pounders). Many of the country’s artifacts had either been destroyed by over-zealous missionaries who arrived in the 1820s, or some of the more interesting artifacts had been taken to Europe, where they languish in overseas museums today. Museum Cook Islands was very fortunate to come into existence at a time when the last of these artifacts were still in the country and was able to acquire them.

Other artifacts include woven articles, costumes, shells, photographs and metal objects, including the wrought iron anchors of two sailing ships. As a non-profit museum, the entry fee is kept at an affordable $6.00 for adults and $3.00 for children.

The public library has a collection of about 40,000 books, including junior readers, young adult books, thrillers, chick lit, historic, classic fiction, non-fiction and academic books for adults. The library makes an effort to update its books every few weeks. Visitors are invited to be temporary members of the library for a fee of $20. Membership lasts 6 months and a $10 refund is made upon visitors returning all their books (up to 6 books can be borrowed at a time).

Opening Hours are: Monday/Wednesday/Friday 9am-1pm.

We look forward to seeing you

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