In 1931, the Governor General of the time, Lord Bledisloe, proposed the idea of folk museums to be developed across the country with the aim of preserving New Zealand’s history.  

Emilia Maud Nixon decided to take up Lord Bledisloe’s challenge by developing a living Folk Museum at the Garden of Memories in Howick.  She chose everyday objects which had a story to tell about Māori and European settlers from the Howick District.  Her vision was to bring people, history and the community together. 

Featuring Māori history, paintings of Māori elders from the early 1800’s, Māori carving and much more, it's theme is to retain the heritage of the early settlers, remember the hardships of the pioneer women, and retain the pre-European heritage of the Ngai Tai people. 

Objects held within Te Whare Taonga include taonga related to the dedication of the original whare of the Garden of Memories, Torere, by descendants of Tara-Te-Irirangi who acted as kaikaranga for the dedication in 1936. These included E Mere Makiwhara and Rachael Ngeungeu Beamish.

In 1945, Princess Te Puea gifted Emilia Maud Nixon a large pounamu, named Ranimarie, now held in the museum. Other objects include items from Howick’s history, kauri gum, carving, raranga, a carved Pataka, tapa and  a patu kotiate gifted at the dedication of Torere.

The items held in Te Whare Taonga offer physical representations of the essence of Emilia Maud Nixon’s vision and deepen the contextual understanding of the Garden of Memories.