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About The Project

Le Quesnoy is a truly special place for New Zealanders to visit. We share a history that goes back over 100 years, which has led to intergenerational friendships, alive to this day. Now we can share a future too.

In 2023, our (yet to be named) New Zealand Museum and Visitor Centre will open in Le Quesnoy. Our Living Memorial will tell the unique story of a liberation by ladder, while also honouring all New Zealanders who fought in Europe in WWI.

We want this uniquely New Zealand place in the very heart of this French town to provide an opportunity for connection and reflection for all who visit, wherever they come from. The universally human stories of courage and sacrifice, when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, will take visitors on an emotional, engaging, and educative journey, told with the values of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

A Living Memorial

While other allies in Australia, Canada and South Africa all built their own museums and visitor centres on the Western Front post WWI, New Zealand has not. However, this passing of time does offer us an exciting chance as a country to do things innovatively and a little differently. As Kiwis do. 

New Zealand has three battlefield memorials on the Western Front at Longueval (France), Messines and Gravenstafel (Belgium), and a fourth sculptured plaque on the rampart at Le Quesnoy – near where the New Zealand soldiers scaled the wall by ladder.  All are poignant sites to remember what happened at these places of significance for the New Zealand Division. We are building respectfully on that legacy and creating a Living Memorial in Le Quesnoy. An immersive and interactive experience, it will be a place where people can gather to remember, connect, reflect, share and engage.

This will be our place to stand as New Zealanders, our foundation, our place in the world, our home – our tūrangawaewae in France. And a place for people from all over the globe to learn a little more about us.

Applying a Te Ao Māori lens has been central to realising the visitor experience conceptual approach. Led by Karl Johnstone and Joe Pihema of Haumi, the approach will focus the visitor on universal human ideas and, at their heart, personal stories that connect us all to each other, past and present. These are stories of courage, sacrifice and humanity. Narratives that show the human face of fighting for freedom, finding friendship, and forging a future free from war. Stories that will move people to perhaps reflect inwardly on their own lives, and outwardly on the world they live in.

Heke mai

Wētā Workshop

For over 30 years, Wētā Workshop has applied their innovation and artistry to the world’s creative industries. Over this time, Sir Richard Taylor has led a world-renowned and uncompromising team of artists, technicians, and master craftspeople, most recently creating material for the Dubai World Expo. Now their talents, with their concept partner Haumi for this project, being applied to designing the Living Memorial visitor experience at Le Quesnoy. 

Creating a powerfully emotive experience about New Zealand’s journey on the other side of the world, requires an internationally recognised New Zealand creative team. Wētā Workshop are the creators of the record-breaking Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War (Karipori: Te Pakanga Nui) exhibition in collaboration with the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa. This emotive exhibition has seen three million guests through its doors, engaging people with the human reality of WWI.  

As Wētā Workshop notes, “thought-provoking, and emotional experiences can be created without compromising historical accuracy. History is the story of people, and those stories should be told clearly and faithfully.” We look forward to Wētā Workshop’s location based experiences division weaving their magic at Le Quesnoy, as they start creating our Living Memorial experience. 

“Having the opportunity to bring such a significant piece of Kiwi history to the fore is very special. The stories are rich and compelling, and we want to help people connect with them in a meaningful way through reflection and discussion about what happened in this little French town over 100 years ago." Sir Richard Taylor - Wētā Workshop CEO and Creative Director.
Te patunga tapu
Nga tangata

A Phased Approach

Renovating an 1890s building and staying true to its beautiful beginnings while ensuring it is also fit for purpose for today and beyond, is not an insubstantial task. Nor is the immersive experience housed within it.

The living memorial museum and visitor centre will open to the public in a phased manner from Anzac Day 2023. The first step will be to complete renovations of the mansion, bringing it back to its former glory, retaining original features, such as floor tiles, wherever possible. Then will come the main Wētā Workshop visitor experience, followed by some additions on the first floor and landscaped grounds, which will also tell a story.

Exact timing for the experience opening will depend on availability of French construction materials and shipping schedules. With our charitable project so far funded solely by donations from generous people, with the target not yet reached, the timing of the next phases will be dependent on further funding becoming available.

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