Curators behind a new Canterbury earthquakes tourist attraction have steered clear of "earthquake porn'' and refused to shake its visitors.
Quake City opens in Christchurch today and will tell the stories of the devastating tremors which have haunted the region over the past two years.
The three-year exhibition features a mix of personal stories, harrowing video footage from February 22, 2011 when 185 people died, as well as remarkably touching relics such as a giant bell from the decimated Roman Catholic basilica, and the snapped spire from the crippled Christ Church Cathedral.
It also features touching mementoes like teddies, flower bouquets, Bibles, and origami swans that had been left as tributes on security fences around collapsed buildings where lives were lost.
Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright says that both tourists and locals have been desperate for a place to explain the natural disaster.
Located in the heart of the Re:Start container shopping mall bordering the ever-shrinking central city red-zone, he hoped that local people would interact with domestic and overseas visitors walking around the exhibition, saying it would be a "very powerful and good catharsis''.
Quake City aims to "engage, inform and educate'' visitors, he says, on the seismic events.
"It's another step forward for our community,'' he said yesterday.
Visitors are immediately greeted by two enormous clocks, survivors of the now demolished Christchurch Railway Station.
One clock stopped when the massive magnitude-7.1 jolt struck at 4.35am on September 4, 2010.
The other clock has been altered to show 12.51pm - the exact time the deadly violent February 22 quake hit, changing the cityscape forever.
Stephen Pennruscoe, exhibitions manager, says he wanted visitors to be taken on "an emotional journey''.
Starting with the Maori legend of Ruaumoko, believed to cause earthquakes and volcanoes, the exhibition takes visitors through the entire earthquake sequence.
It gets "darker and sadder'' around February 22, before going on to explain the science behind earthquakes and looking to how the broken city rebuilds.
Mr Pennruscoe said it was a challenge to come up with something that appealed to both locals and tourists.
"We wanted to steer clear of earthquake porn and we didn't want to shake anyone. There is a real appetite for people to understand what has happened."
It is open from 10am today and adults' entry is $10.