To be the official Rugby Museum in New Zealand that safeguards the preservation, protection and display of the history and heritage of New Zealand rugby.
The New Zealand Rugby Museum became the first public museum devoted to rugby. The NZRM gallery was opened for visits in 1977, at the corner of Grey and Carroll Sts, Palmerston North. Early work was focused on building the museum’s collection into an internationally significant one.
In 1991 the NZRM was relocated to 87 Cuba St, Palmerston North. The building was rented from the Palmerston North City Council and modified to give the museum three gallery areas and space to continue to build the collection. The displays developed and the breadth of the museums collection began to attract national and international recognition. Many authors and researchers utilised the museums unique resources. The use of rare images or digging up long forgotten stories added to the museum’s reputation. The NZRM became the only tourist attraction from Palmerston North recognised in the AA’s 101 things to do in New Zealand and was rated as an attraction for Palmerston North in the Lonely Planet. The NZRM’s collection was originally kept on a manual system but subsequently converted to a computerised database, a rare feat for a small museum. Annual visitor numbers were between 5,000 and 6,000 per annum. Financially the RMS has operated profitably since inception and made a surplus every year of operation, except for the 2020 year (due to Covid-19). By 2009 the RMS had built up a cash surplus of approximately $250,000.
In 2011 the NZRM relocated to its current premises in the Te Manawa complex, 326 Main St, Palmerston North. The reopening was timed to perfection, one month before the kick-off of RWC 2011, the culmination of three years of planning and the new catch-cry of the museum became “The Sport that Shaped a Nation”. The new facilities are in a climate controlled building, with superior light, humidity and security controls. The revamped story-lines follow a chronological history of rugby in New Zealand at the same time covering social developments in New Zealand as a whole.
The showpiece “Rugby Relics” gallery which covers each decade from 1870 to 2010 is made up of large three door cabinets between 3.6 and 2.8 metres high and rich with items and images from the periods. Succinct captions are well written with the museum adhering to a principal of less-is-more, each story is less than 100 words.
The central “Rugby Tribe” gallery is a space for changing exhibitions; currently it features an exhibition titled “Herstory of Womens Rugby”, which tells the story of women's attempts to play rugby, the start of regular competitions, the forming of the Black Ferns and the evolution to professional players in 2021.
The Discovery Library is a quiet contemplative space for researchers set up with an unsurpassed collection of rugby books and able to accommodate up to 12 people.
The jewel in the gallery is the “Have a Go” area, where people of all ages and abilities can test their rugby skills on the five games, pushing in a scrum, tackling, sprinting, jumping and kicking. This is a particular favourite with the younger audience. Visitor numbers during the RWC 2011 were record breaking with over 10,000 visiting in 10 weeks. A more regular pattern has developed since then with approximately 10,000 visiting in the 2019 year.
A visitor to the NZ Rugby Museum is greeted by a Volunteer Host, there are approximately 50 Hosts that do regular duties at the museum, of which six regularly take groups on guided visits. The NZRM is viewed as the leading sports museum in New Zealand, with a collection in excess of 40,000 items, world class displays and activities and strong visitor numbers. The NZRM is networked with other rugby museums internationally, including The World Rugby Museum (Twickenham, London), and the rugby museums of Italy, Argentina, Australia and the now defunct South African rugby museum. The NZRM is a member of Museums Aotearoa. The NZRM has maintained a website since 2002, the website www.rugbymuseum.co.nz is being upgraded in 2021 to reflect the new developments. Key visitor information apart from museum location and operations, are the statistics on All Blacks profiles and matches. The NZRM has attracted sponsorship and has agreements with ANZ, Powa Rugby, InspireNet, GSA Design, Capture Signs. New Zealand Rugby is a major funder, there is an MoU between the NZRM, and NZR who acknowledge the NZRM as an associate member and the archival arm of NZR. NZR provide the NZRM with the right to use the trademarked silver fern logo.