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Living the dream . . . New Waitaki Museum and Archive curators Henry Buckenham and Elly Dunckley started last week. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Henry Buckenham and Elly Dunckley have landed their dream jobs.

The pair are new to the Waitaki Museum and Archive Te Whare Taoka o Waitaki, having started last week.

Mr Buckenham is the museum exhibitions and collections curator, and Ms Dunckley is the curator of archives.

“It’s one of those jobs, you do it in your spare time as well, because you’re so lucky to have it,” Mr Buckenham said.

Ms Dunckley echoed the sentiment.

“You go to work every day to do your hobby. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Ms Dunckley moved to Oamaru in 2007 and has worked in various roles within the Waitaki District Council during that time, including as a personal assistant, executive assistant and also in information management.

This was her first time working in a museum, although it had always been an area that interested her.

She replaces Chris Meech, who left the position last year.

“I’ve always been interested in history and preservation of, particularly, genealogical stuff, and the stories that people, and the stories that artefacts tell, and how it all comes together,” she said.

Mr Buckenham recently completed his masters in museum studies in Wellington, where he also worked for the New Zealand Defence Force as a heritage analyst.

He replaces Chloe Searle, who is now the director of the museum and archive and the Forrester Gallery.

“My grandfather and my grandmother both went to school at Waitaki Boys’ and Waitaki Girls’ , and we used to spend every holiday down in this region,” he said.

“It’s a place I feel very connected to, and then the opportunity to work with Chloe, who’s very well regarded in our field, and has an incredible enthusiasm, and she does such an amazing job here .. is really special and a great opportunity.”

Both curators considered what they did a privilege.

“It’s a great pleasure and a great honour to be responsible for looking after such an amazing collection of items that, you know, reflect so many people’s lives and contributions to the place that we live in,” Mr Buckenham said.

“It’s a privilege that people will entrust you with their family treasures or their business treasures that they’ve cared for for years and years and years, and they’ve just given them to us to look after and care for and share with the community and tell the whole story of the Waitaki,” Ms Dunckley added.

When he is not in the museum, Mr Buckenham said he liked to be outdoors, and enjoyed running, skiing and sailing. Ms Dunckley loved walking, and thought there were not many tracks in New Zealand she had not completed.

The museum has a moratorium on accepting new items while the building is in the process of being refurbished, to ensure nothing gets damaged or lost. The building work is expected to be competed later in the year.

Coming in for a chat, however, was still encouraged, Mr Buckenham said.

“A guy came in the other day, he was digging up his garden and he found lots of fossils, and . . . we can’t take everything, but we love it when people come and show us, because then we can teach them about it and they teach us about it.

“It’s not about how flashy treasure is, things tell stories and we’re interested in stories.

“You might think it’s mundane and boring, but we might go thing ever!’ So we always really encourage people to bring stuff in, just to have a chat, and they might learn something about it.”

There was one particular item Mr Buckenham would like to see brought into the museum and that was a commemorative plaque for Private Charles Morrison Ward.

The plaque went missing from one of the memorial oaks which line Oamaru’s streets to remember North Otago soldiers who died in World War 1.

Private Ward lived on Aln St, and was reported missing in action after being wounded at Gallipoli in May 1915.

A project to restore the plaques and oaks was started in 1991, after town growth and age meant some had been damaged.

“They were taken into the museum, 32 of them, I think, but one went missing somewhere between 1992 and 2014. We would really like it back, mainly for Private Ward,” he said.

“It’s one of those things, sometimes you get really personal connections with what you deal with, and you know, with Anzac Day coming up .. it would be really wonderful to be able to reunite Private Ward with his comrades.

“It was a mistake somewhere in the past, but if we could get Private Ward back, that would be really amazing.”