Te Manawa has long been committed to collecting work by significant New Zealand artists, with a particular interest in emerging artists, works by Māori and Polynesian artists and works that relate to Manawatū.
The core of the collection is recent New Zealand art (post-1960), with an especially strong representation of 1970s work. The range of media in the collection is wide and includes installation art, artists’ books, ceramics, sculpture, photographs, prints and painting.
Te Manawa maintains a collection of some 300 interactive exhibits, created for hands-on use in exhibitions and education programmes. The majority of these explore science and technology themes such as electricity, colour, communication, time, human biology and aspects of natural history. New exhibits are continually being created and added to the collection.