Michaela O'Donovan

Like the last two Tuakana profiles, this week's is bitter-sweet being both a welcome and a farewell. Michaela has been at the helm of the Documentary Heritage team (also known as Information, Library and Enquiry Services, but that's a mouth-full) at Auckland Museum for the last 5 years and my boss for the last 11 months. All good things must come to an end however and Michaela has heeded the irresistible call of home and whanau so will be saying adieu to her Auckland Museum team next Friday. Sad, sad times for us but goodness I'm so appreciative of the time I've had with her as a manager. I have learned an enormous amount from her - about being tenacious, about professionalism, about getting s**t done, about championing each other in our work, about being an advocate and always, always being respectful and tautoko-ing your colleagues. I can only hope to draw inspiration from her boundless energy and enthusiasm for what we do but more importantly for always seeking the potential that we hold both as individuals and as a sector. 

Nau mai haere mai, Michaela! And haere rā for now.

MOD July 2017.jpg

In five words, describe your role in the sector. (The five word limit is for this question only)

Facilitator, encourager, magpie, wing-woman, stickler – still working on that last one.

What is it about the sector that you love?

I love our role as connectors between people and stories, people and communities, people and others’ stories. I love the fact that we’re now able to do this as global players, on networks all over the world. And I love the opportunity that we have in this sector in Aotearoa New Zealand to keep evolving a distinctively Aotearoa cultural heritage/research presence that visitors will respond to and engage with –onsite, online and within communities. We’re not there yet…..

What have been some challenges in your career?

Working out that project management skills, rather like touch typing and a modicum of humility, would help me add some value; working out how to get an initiative to fly in complex organisations; noticing my own unconscious cultural blindness; gaining the understanding of executive members and boards that I’m vaguely competent but things could still get rocky.

What challenges can you see moving forward?

There are all sorts of challenges which I know others have discussed - like creating a quality offer that is self-sustaining as much as possible, securing adequate funding, having enough of the right expertise to create engaging experiences and care for collections, particularly digital ones – so I won’t go there.

A challenge to developing our ‘Aotearoa museums’ future is that our ways of working are still largely Pākehā – I think there’s room for each of us to work in a way that allows for the understanding and conversations which would support really inclusive experiences for our knowledge communities, visitors and researchers.

What do you think people in the early stages of their careers can offer the sector?

Their intrinsic knowledge, courage and patience to help us evolve as a sector in Aotearoa, connectedness, generosity, energy, fresh thinking, irreverence, compassion.

In a museum of Michaela, what is an object / taonga / specimen / artwork that you'd want in the collection?

A boxy black wool jacket with giant tan buttons – in the ‘60s my mother taught herself how to sew in order to make this jacket – the stories it could tell! Family, generosity, resourcefulness, practicality, thrift, quality and great style that never dates.