Museum role 'a dream job'

22:11, Jul 30 2014
jennifer evans
NEW ROLE: Toitu Otago Settlers Museum director Jennifer Evans.

After years working hard behind the scenes of two major Otago museums, Jennifer Evans has been rewarded with an appointment as director of the $45m state-of the art Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

The facility's owner, the Dunedin City Council, announced Evans' appointment to head of the unique facility this week.

It's her dream job.

"It's fantastic," Evans said.

"I've been working in museums all my life and I have a real passion for museums. For me, it's about having the passion, about interpreting history and stories for people, and about following your dreams.

"It's getting up out of bed in the morning rearing to go, really wanting to be there and do a good days work, doing something you really enjoy."


And on the odd occasion when things get stressful, the half a kilometre walk from one end of the museum to the other and back again is a welcome reliever, she said.

Evans clinches the post over 13 rival candidates, replacing former director Linda Wigley.

With a forte for collections care, Evans had been visitor experience manager with Toitu since 2010, and seconded to acting director since October last year after Wigley's departure.

Before that Evans was exhibitions and building services manager at the Otago Museum.

She has also held posts as senior officer visitor services in the Paisley Museum and Art Galleries in Scotland and Director of the Te Awamutu District Museum.

But this week's announcement also holds a certain romantic attachment for Evans as well.

In its previous life, part of the museum complex was Dunedin's bus station, it's former historic art deco waiting room kept intact as one of today's spaces, and the spot where Evans first met her husband University of Otago health sciences librarian Otago Richard German.

It was a cold day in February 1986. The couple,  who had sat beside each other on a bus from Queenstown into Dunedin, naturally arrived at the bus station together.

Evans' flatmate was to pick her up from the station but German had a three or four hour wait for his connecting bus.
She invited him back to the flat for a cuppa to wait and the rest is history.

As for the history of Dunedin, it was the first great city of the empire in New Zealand, and where the museum's story begins, Evans said.

"We have a unique history and a unique identity that comes from living at the bottom of New Zealand, the bottom of the world."

Evans paid tribute to the Otago Settlers Association which set up the museum in 1898, 50 years after the arrival of the first ships.

It was realised the first settlers were beginning to grow older and in some cases dying off. There was the worry their stories and artefacts they had brought with them and those made by them were beginning to disappear, Evans said.

The association's successor, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum Trust Board, expressed its delight at Evans' appointment through its chairwoman Dr Dot Page.

"We look forward to a bright future for Toitu Otago Settlers Museum under Ms Evans' leadership."

Dunedin City Council acting general manager services and development Nicola Pinfold said Evans brought a wealth of museum experience both nationally and internationally.

As part of her role, Evans takes charge of neighbouring attraction the Dunedin Chinese Gardens, built and largely gifted to Dunedin by the city of Shanghai.

Gardens' Trust Chairman Malcolm Wong congratulated Evans, saying the trust looked forward to further cementing the relationship between the museum and the garden.