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Up to about 200 science and technology centre leaders from 17 Asia Pacific countries, including the United States, Japan, Thailand and Australia, were expected to visit Dunedin in late March, museum organisers said this week.
This is the first time the Asia Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centres (ASPAC) conference has been held in New Zealand.
Museum chief executive Shimrath Paul said the Otago Museum team had achieved a remarkable underdog victory, in the face of competition from much bigger and wealthier overseas science centres, and vastly bigger cities.
It is understood that a science facility in the Chinese capital, Beijing, was among rival bidders.
"We are a small fish in a very big pond with very big fish," Mr Paul told this week's Otago Museum Trust Board meeting.
"It's unbelievable we've actually been awarded next year's conference."
The outcome was recently announced at the closing ceremony for this year's ASPAC conference, which was held in Taiwan.
Mr Paul and Clare Wilson, the Otago Museum director, exhibitions, development and planning, both gave science centre-related papers at the Taiwanese conference and helped promote the Dunedin bid.
The hosting success would significantly boost the international profile of the museum and Dunedin and could also help the museum attract overseas exhibitions, Mr Paul said.
The conference outcome was "very exciting and greatly rewarding" and provided a great opportunity to showcase the museum's Discovery World science centre in a wider context.
Ms Wilson said organisers planned to maximise the economic benefits to Dunedin by encouraging overseas participants to arrive a few days early to attend pre-conference workshops and enjoy other cultural activities before the main sessions began.
It was planned to open the four-day conference in Dunedin and hold much of it there, but transport delegates to Queenstown for the final day's activities, she said.