You drive down the North Island, cross the Desert Road and wind down the hill to find yourself in the Desert Oasis, a blink and you miss it, truck stop kind of town. But there is one fort-like building, or rather the array of tanks parked in front of it, which makes the place a little more memorable. Every child has their obligatory photo, atop the centurion, somewhere in the family albums. This is the National Army Museum.
But this is not where we work.
As the Assistant Curator in charge of Social History and Accoutrements and the Collection Technician at the NAM (Army loves acronyms), we don’t actually work in the main building. What you may not have noticed as you wove down the hill at the end of the Desert, before you hit the bright lights of Waiouru, is the little red and black sign that directs you into the Waiouru Military Camp where we live and work. This is how we get there.
Us passing security to get to the collections store inside the Camp.
One of the most common questions we get asked is ‘why on earth did you choose to move to Waiouru?’ So we want to share some of our adventures and show how working at the NAM is exactly the same and completely different from other museums.
As you can see, we spend our days doing pretty normal stuff. And then we glance out the window and remember what a strange place we are in. It’s full of distractions and hazards and people do actually patrol past in camouflage with rifles… RIFLES!
The Museum used to be entirely manned by soldiers, which has left an interesting legacy in collection work; but now we have only one officer on staff – making us a civilian unit in what sometimes feels like a sea of green…
However, between field trips, mess functions and big events, the Army community has welcomed us in.
Working for the Army can be interesting. When the Museum was offered a donation of seven boxes of plaques, Liz, our Assistant Curator in charge of Heraldry asked for photos to help her choose. This is what the sergeant sent back!
The Ruapehu District is beautiful and although the NAM is isolated – it’s either in the middle of nowhere or the centre of everywhere depending on how you look at it – ‘Waiberia’ makes a great base camp.
Anna Beazley and Megan Wells