Gallery director relishes role

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The new director of the Forrester Gallery and the North Otago Museum has crossed the ditch into her new role and is loving the opportunities available.

Jane Macknight returned from four years at the National Archives of Australia to become the director of both institutions in January.

The cooler weather was the hardest thing to adjust to so far but the job was great, she said.

Cultural institutions were collaborating more than ever and having the museum and the gallery working more closely together was going to open many opportunities, Ms Macknight said.

“The focus for this year is me getting to know how this is going to work.”

“One of the things we will be looking at is developing more educational programmes and working with schools.”

The director said she had done a lot of work in Australia with online and digital work and is planning on doing more of this for the museum and gallery.

“Digital access, online access, conversations and dialogue is definitely the way of the future.”

Being the director of two institutions was slightly difficult logistically, but with the support of “fantastic” staff, Ms Macknight was working out how to spend an equal amount of time at each place, she said.

There were some great exhibitions being planned for the year – Towards the Precipice – Propaganda posters collected by W.B. Sutch had drawn in many visitors from out of town who had never had the opportunity to see an exhibition like it, and the upcoming Pukeuri Plant History Exhibition was important because it was a huge part of Oamaru’s history, the director said.

Ms Macknight has had 15 years’ experience in the cultural and heritage sector and previously spent several years as curator at the Forrester Gallery from 1999-2002.

Oamaru had changed quite a bit in that time and had a much stronger positivity than it did when she was last here, the director said.

“Oamaru feels great.

“The lovely thing about coming back to Oamaru is how friendly the people have been and being near the beach.”

The museum and gallery welcomed input on how to make it more vibrant and people could make suggestions by popping in to either institution or phoning the museum on 433 0852 or the gallery on 434 1653.

They were also looking for anyone with any objects from their time at the Pukeuri Freezing Works.

By RUBY HARFIELD