In the interests of full disclosure, I was born and raised an Aucklander. I drink lattes, have developed opinions on traffic and generally have to fight off my natural tendencies towards being a bit pretentious. However, I no longer live in Auckland, a fact that is purely career based.
I decided museums were where I wanted to be in my second year of my history degree in Auckland. Being quite young and not having a house, pets or children to keep me in one place, I opted to move to Wellington to do the Master of Museum and Heritage Studies degree full time for two years. Little did I know that this would be the first of many moves as I got further and further down the rabbit hole of being a museum obsessive! During our studies, my classmates and I were repeatedly advised by our excellent lecturers that we’d need to look wider than the main centres to really develop our careers. I told lots of people that I’d be totally happy to move to ‘the regions’ for a while for my career, it’d be an adventure, without really thinking it was an actual possibility (I did mention I’m an Aucklander, right?)
After two years in Wellington, with a three month stint at what was then the Hawkes Bay Museum and Art Gallery (now MTG) in Napier thrown in for good measure, I got my first job – back in Auckland. So, very sadly, I packed up my life in Wellington, said farewell to the fabulous friends I’d made there, had a last emotional visit to my spiritual home of Moore Wilsons, and made the trek back north. After 18 months of visitor research I began to feel like it was time to get back to where I’d always wanted to be – collections. I applied for a number of curatorial and collection positions around the country, including at Puke Ariki, where I had an interview. Well, I was offered the job: Social History Curator, AKA job of dreams, just not really where I’d pictured living.
I took a deep breath and took the job. I then cried for a week. I moved to New Plymouth, leaving my partner in Auckland to continue his PhD. I cried for another week. Then I started the job and I loved it. I still love it. The most incredible thing about working for a regional museum, particularly one as fabulous as Puke Ariki, is the variety of things you get to do on a day to day basis. Recently I’ve curated a collection exhibition, been interviewed on local radio about the Social History collection, dealt with new acquisitions, and started preparing material for our World War One exhibition – and this changes week by week.
I’m still getting to know New Plymouth and Taranaki as a place to live. It’s very different to anywhere I’ve lived before, and I love being so close to the mountain and getting out and about along the coastline. However it is noticeably small and isolated compared to what I’m used to. I miss my partner, family and friends further north immensely, and there are no good Chinese restaurants nearby which I would love to see change! However the work experience I’m getting at Puke Ariki is invaluable. The point I’m trying to make is that my lecturers were right, of course –upping sticks and moving towns for a job in a regional museum is a tough decision, especially if you’re a bit of a city girl like me. But despite the challenges and the exorbitant amount of money I’ve spent on airfares, I’m so pleased I chose to get out of my comfort zone, and so grateful Puke Ariki took a chance on me. The opportunities I’ve had here to develop an enormous range of skills and try a bit of everything museum-related have been astonishing. I’d highly recommend giving smaller-town New Zealand museums a chance if you’re ready for a change of pace and a chance to do a bit of everything!
Curator Social History, Puke Ariki