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National Volunteer Week @ OM

National Volunteer week blog 3

The Otago Museum holds taoka of all kinds. It’s also supported by the most valuable taoka of all – our volunteers. The Otago Museum acknowledges and thanks the people who contribute their time and knowledge to our work. Here is an introduction to a few of those generous people to mark National Volunteer Week 2018.

Otago Museum Trust Board

The members of the Otago Museum Trust Board represent our key stakeholder groups: DCC, regional councils (Clutha, Waitaki and Central Otago), the University of Otago, the Otago Institute for the Arts and Sciences, Mana whenua and Friends of the Otago Museum. Board members give their time to attend board meetings and provide governance for the Museum. 

Otago Museum Māori Advisory Committee

Our Māori Advisory Committee consists of representatives from our four local rūnaka (Puketeraki, Moeraki, Ōtākou, Hokonui). All members volunteer their time, have oversight of Museum activities, support the Museum in its care of its taoka Māori collection, and provide advice on cultural matters. Our MAC members also support our Curator Māori and are an invaluable resource for staff.

Honorary Curators

Work at the Otago Museum is supported by a number of amazing Honorary Curators - volunteer researchers and retired university staff who carry a wealth of knowledge which supports our stories and adds additional context to our collections. They carry out their own research and collection projects, and assist with some of the collection services the Museum offers. 

Dr Jane Malthus - Honorary Curator, European Dress

Dress and textiles historian Dr Jane Malthus currently teaches at Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago. She was a founding member and has been President of the Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand.

While Jane’s doctorate focused on dress in 19th century New Zealand, her research since then has expanded to look more broadly at the historical, social and cultural intersections and implications of dress and textiles worn and used by 19th and 20th century New Zealanders.

National and international recognition of Jane’s expertise means she has many calls on her time and we are grateful for her advice and involvement in exhibitions, her answering of enquiries, and her research and publication on the Otago Museum collection.

Dr Rosi Crane - Honorary Curator, History of Science

Rosi’s research focuses on the early years of the Otago Museum and Otago Institute. She often jests that she carries the Museum’s second curator, Thomas Jeffery Parker, around in her head - a huge asset when you can’t talk to the long-gone man himself. Rosi’s research focuses on the activities of the first three curators, Hutton, Parker and Benham, which falls roughly between 1868 and 1930. Back then the Museum, which was part of the Otago University, was a fledgling colonial natural history museum. Rosi has also been lead writer on the upcoming 150th exhibition.


Rosi Crane

Image: Rosi Crane next to the fin whale purchased for the Museum by Thomas Jeffery Parker. By Otago Museum.


Dr Anthony Reay - Honorary Curator, Geology
Anthony Reay originally trained in Manchester and moved to Dunedin when he was appointed a lecturer at the University of Otago’s Geology Department in 1965. During his 37-year tenure he focused on making geochemistry and minerology accessible to a wide variety of audiences. Anthony has been cataloguing the early local and international mineral collections, many of which are hand samples collected for analysis. He also works on the steady supply of rock identification requests the Museum receives from the public. 


Tony Reay

Image: Tony Reay, Natural Science team field trip to Kakanui, 2017. By Kane Fleury, Otago Museum.


Anthony Harris - Honorary Curator, Entomology
Anthony Harris is a familiar figure at the Otago Museum. Starting as a curator in 1974, he retired in 1999 but continued on as an honorary curator. Every Monday for almost 35 years he has published the Nature File column in the Otago Daily Times, focusing on new, natural science research discoveries, many of which are related to New Zealand ecology, taxonomy and conservation. He deals with invertebrate enquires brought in by the public and works with research collaborators overseas publishing papers on Pompilidae, or spider wasps. He is also working with collection staff cataloguing a new collection of pinned and pickled insect specimens. 


Anthony Harris

Image: Anthony Harris, in the field at Smails Beach, Dunedin. By Emma Burns, Otago Museum.


Dr Melville Carr – Honorary Philatelist

Although he was a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Otago for all of his career, Dr Melville Carr volunteers at the Otago Museum as our Honorary Philatelist. Melville has been seriously collecting stamps since about 1965. He joined the Dunedin Philatelic Society the following year, and was made an honorary life member in the late 1980s.

At the Museum, Melville organises and ensures the proper storage of its stamps (which includes a complete New Zealand collection), answers enquiries on related matters, and contributes to exhibitions on occasion. You will see one of his suggestions on display in our 150th anniversary exhibition, est. 1868, later this year.


Melville Carr

 Image: Dr Melville Carr.

Debbie Stoddart - Taoka Digitisation Project
Debbie has been working on the Taoka Digitisation Project for one and half years, reporting on the condition of the Kāi Tahu holdings before they are digitised. So far she has worked through fish hooks and stone tools, and is currently examining wooden objects. She is working on her master’s thesis in anthropology and archaeology at the University of Otago. With a working title of Migrating Myths, she’s using a methodology called cultural phylogenetics to look at the relationships between different variants of the story of Maui stealing fire throughout Polynesia. She also works in the Palaeogenetics Laboratory in the Zoology Department, reconstructing past cetacean populations through analysis of archaeological remains.


Debbie Stoddart 2

Image: Debbie Stoddart (left) working with Conservator Lisa Yeats.


Emeritus Professor Robert Hannah – Honorary Curator, Classical Collections
Robert Hannah studied Greek at the University of Otago, then trained in Classical Archaeology at the University of Oxford. He returned to Otago and was a member for 33 years of the Classics Department, where he became a Professor. In 2013 he left to take up the position of Dean of Arts & Social Sciences at the University of Waikato. He retired back to Dunedin in 2016. Robert is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He has been Honorary Curator of the Classical Collections at the Museum since 1980. In his time Robert has responded to queries both local and international, organised a special exhibition of select items, advised on the permanent display and new acquisitions, and published several items, notably (with Dimitri Anson) Lamps in New Zealand Collections (2013). He has also served as President of the Friends of the Otago Museum, and been a member of the Otago Museum Trust Board.

Robert Hannah


Joel Vanderburg 
Joel Vanderburg lived and worked in Nigeria (1964 to 67) as an archaeologist with the US Peace Corps and in Ghana (1972 to 75) as a research biologist with the World Health Organization (WHO). Much of Joel's professional career was as a public health specialist with WHO working throughout Asia and the Pacific. He and his wife Patti moved to New Zealand in 1995. In addition to his activity with the Museum, Joel works on local conservation issues, presents the occasional lecture, cuts and splits a fair bit of wood, and serves on the Advisory Board of the Otago Global Health Institute (OGHI). He is currently involved with the identification and assessment of the research potential of the Museum's Africa collection.