Kirstie Ross

It's not an accident that we have featured every single History curator from Te Papa as a Tuakana (and Katie as an On the Level) on Tusk, including past curators and almost all of the Pacific team (just waiting on Nina but she's the busiest person in the world!). The reason I've featured them is because, ever since before I even started here, they have been supportive. And I know I go on about how great and supportive people are in museums, I'm not exaggerating, and Kirstie is one of those great supporters. When I started at Te Papa, the History team invited me along to their hui and it was a great way to come up to speed with the ways in which this giant machine works. It was an invaluable lesson and I thank them all for helping me along in that way. 

Kirstie is deeply engaged and open to ideas. It's been really fun working with her, and having someone to bounce my new-fangled thoughts off of. And it's not just work that we chat about, Kirstie has also put me on to a new show (yet to watch but it is my kind of trashy tv!) called Say Yes to the Dress, which sounds delightfully horrific. Lastly, Kirstie is the kind of person that walks the talk. At our LitCrawl talk on Saturday night, I spotted her in the crowd, intently listening and I greatly appreciate her for that.

Ngā mihi nui Kirstie.

Ross - Gold Town.jpg

In five words, describe your role in the sector.

Facilitator, collaborator, communicator, creator, explorer

What is it about the sector that you love?

Its dynamism and focus on audience; opportunities for creativity and collaboration; access to multiple channels of communication; being extended and challenged in the ways I approach and think about history and culture; working with talented people who have complementary and diverse expertise and interests; and the chance to be thinking about and influencing New Zealand culture and history almost every day.

What have been some challenges in your career?

Figuring out what being a social history curator really means and entails; finding enough time to follow through with core business and to pursue new ideas; keeping in touch with people and being up to date with museological practice and disciplinary literature; balancing big picture and strategic thinking with details, details, details; prioritising work; balancing the contemporary with the historic; negotiating the shifting status of and relationship between research, collections and exhibition; upskilling around new digital/social media; realising that my passion for history is not shared by others (and trying to do something about it!).

What challenges can you see moving forward?

More of the same – with fewer colleagues and less time and tighter budgets, but with growing or untenable institutional and public expectations.

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

Energy and enthusiasm, fresh ways of looking at and thinking about museum practice, agility and openness, new networks and experiences to draw upon and connect with.

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

It would be a song from the musical/film The Sound of Music: ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria?’