New role ... Chloe Searle has been appointed as the director of the Waitaki Museum and Archives and Forrester Gallery. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

For some people, picking one career comes easy.

For Chloe Searle, just “one thing” was not an option.

Ms Searle was recently appointed as the Waitaki Museum and Archive and Forrester Gallery director, after filling the role of acting director for the past year.

As a young girl growing up in Christchurch, the only thing she wanted to be was a vet.

When she left school, she struggled to make up her mind on what to study, but ended up completing a degree in anthropology and English at the University of Canterbury.

It was not until a friend suggested museum studies, that she considered the work she now does.

She completed a master of museum and heritage studies at the Victoria University of Wellington.

“Having visited museums and art galleries, I had never even thought for a second about the people who worked at them,” she said.

“And it was a real lightbulb moment where I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I can continue the passion I have for science and for history, and for art’.”

Better yet, working in a smaller institution allowed her to dabble in everything and anything.

“You can do anything from talking to school groups to managing the collection, [and] hanging exhibitions on the wall. I just love having that variety.”

Now director of the Oamaru’s museum and art gallery, Ms Searle was both excited and aware of the responsibility that came with it.

“There’s this feeling of that real tradition of what previous directors have done and achieved, and wanting to make sure that you keep up all that good work and [maintain] connections with the community.”

That was what the facilities were for, after all, she said.

Fostering a relationship with the community was like any other relationship.

“It’s putting time into it, and it’s not just being in touch when you need something.”

In her spare time, Ms Searle volunteers as the Janet Frame Eden St Trust chairwoman and is a member of the Forest & Bird Waitaki branch.

“I think it’s the story for so many people in a small town. You end up being involved in all sorts of things if you stay around long enough.”

Ms Searle moved to Oamaru 11 years ago, when she was appointed as the Waitaki Museum’s collections and exhibitions curator.

Now in the driver’s seat at the Museum and Archives and Forrester Gallery, she aspired to continue the great work that had been done over the past few decades, while continuing with the museum’s second-floor refurbishments and addressing accessibility issues at the art gallery.

Though there were no tradesmen on site under Alert Level 4, that did not mean work had stopped – there was plenty of planning under way, she said.

Beyond the upgrade, Ms Searle was excited to get more programmes and exhibitions out to the community.