On the Level: Zoe Richardson

Zoe Richardson. Manager, Image Orders @ Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Zoe Richardson. Manager, Image Orders @ Tāmaki Paenga Hira


In five words, describe your place in the sector.

Organised chaos with a Bold-lip.


What first drew you to the sector i.e. Do you have a particular memory of a moment that got you hooked?

I have always seen Auckland Museum as this grand monument on the top of Pukekawa, majestic like a wedding cake that’s visible from across the city. Doing a 7th form history assignment, I used the library and armoury for resources and expert help many times -  little did I know I would later call those people my colleagues and friends (and they would remember me for my enthusiasm). I feel immense privilege working here in this time of huge change and development.

Here is where I reveal my secret, I always wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to cure cancer and wear a white lab coat. And I did it. I finished my Masters in Medical Science in 2012 and I couldn’t leave the lab coat fast enough -  I wasn’t made for sitting at a lab bench for 12 hours a day only for my experiment to fail. I am really proud of myself for sticking that out and I don’t regret those long years of hard slog but it turns out it wasn’t for me.  So I floundered for a few months until I got a casual job on an information centre at Auckland Museum.  I started doing some casual Library admin work and then applied for my current job as Assistant Librarian, image orders. I was instantly hooked on the diversity of the work, the people and the unique challenges of the sector. I am lucky to be working across all of the collections which I don’t take for granted. It’s a real honour!

What challenges have you faced in your career so far?

Resourcing for my role has been hard and I often don’t have space to do the long term strategic thinking. This is changing very soon and I am really appreciative. I have to get better at not constantly apologizing for not being able to do everything.

The constant fixed term contract culture of the sector can be quite stressful and unsettling for contract and permanent staff alike.

Has anything or anyone in particular provided you with support?

I have been lucky in more ways than one -  for getting a full time permanent job andfor being really well supported by this institution. They have given me a lot of professional development and professional backing.

I think this is a sector that you get out of it what you put in. Attitude is everything and as a result of being open to new opportunities I have been given a lot of trust, freedom and responsibility early on.

I have been very fortunate to be managed and mentored by many powerful wāhine who know when to manage and know when to let me fly. Our department is headed by Michaela O’Donovan who is a huge advocate for her people and their mahi. She drives us forward with steadfast optimism and has been a huge influence with regards to my work ethic and career aspirations. This sector is full of like-minded individuals full of aroha and tautoko and we should feel really good about that. I also need to shout out to my waiwaiā Māori colleagues who have been really supportive of me managing and championing the Māori cultural permissions process as a Pākehā New Zealander. He Korahi Māori in action!

What do you think people at your own level (emerging etc) bring to the sector?

Strong opinions, enthusiasm and a willingness to do anything. I have always felt that my generation is inclusionary and accepting of diversity and I think this is going to be the norm in museums of the future.

We are not going to sit by and accept injustice or inefficient/outdated practices. I am also really optimistic and positive about the future of museums and our role in lifting the dark cloud of colonialism and empowering our indigenous communities. 

Tusk has a huge role in leading this dialogue.

What is a positive change you would like to see in the sector?

Diversity. Diversity. Diversity. I mean that in terms of sexuality, race, age, gender, viewpoint and skills. Museums will have increased social responsibility and we need to meet that head on.

I have often felt ashamed/embarrassed that I have got to the job I have without a Museum Studies/Library degree when I know there are many out there working hard to get entry level jobs and studying. But I am growing to see my qualifications as not only relevant but important in my role.

So I hope that in the future this can be a multidisciplinary sector harvesting the skills of various disciplines to become a force for real change.

Entry level jobs with job security and development opportunities would be nice too!

What is your karaoke song?

I can spit some lyrics in true white girl rap style to Drake or Lil’ Wayne -  but I am actually so basic at heart that it’s probably Whitney Houston’s classic “I wanna dance with somebody”.