Aztecs: Conquest and Glory was developed by Te Papa in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) in Mexico, and as part of a partnership with two Australian museums. It was exhibited at Te Papa from 28 September 2013 to 9 February 2014. From there Aztecs toured to Melbourne Museum, 9 April to 10 August 2014, then to the Australian Museum in Sydney, 13 September 2014 through to 1 February 2015.
The exhibition told the story of the Aztec empire up until the Spanish conquest, with a small section at the end addressing the “Aztec legacy”. It featured more than 200 objects from museums across Mexico, including well recognised masterpieces as well as recently discovered artefacts related to everyday life that had not previously been exhibited. The intention of the Mexican curator Raúl Barrera, Director of the Urban Archaeology Project in Mexico City, was that it should be a “complete exhibition” that represented the society as a whole, including “the common life” of the Aztecs.
The Te Papa exhibition development team took the approach of trying to tell the Aztec story in a respectful way that represented, as far as possible, their distinctive worldview. For example, the Aztec’s view of themselves as living at the centre of the universe was represented through the exhibition design by a large scale model of the Templo Mayor, surrounded by monumental objects relating to religion and human sacrifice. At the same time, the team wanted to avoid over-emphasising or sensationalising sacrificial practices and endeavoured to balance this with the representation of everyday life as well as the poetry, oratory and artistry of Aztec culture.