When a volcanologist visited Charlotte Milne's class at Mt Eden Normal School, the then Year 4 primary pupil was hooked. Her classmates might have gone home worrying about volcanic eruptions, but young Charlotte was far more interested in how you studied volcanoes and Auckland's geology.
Her love of volcanoes fuelled further visits to Auckland Museum which rapidly became one of her favourite places.
Fast forward nearly a decade and Milne this year started a conjoint Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Auckland where she intends to major in biology and human geography. Long term, she has her eye on a postgraduate qualification in museum studies. Milne says it will allow her to work in a fascinating and varied environment where she can share with others her enthusiasm and interest in her favourite subjects, but she acknowledges many of her peers do not share her passion for museums.
"There's a whole perception of museums as boring - a place associated with school and school visits and looking for information on a specific topic - but that's so wrong," she says. "Look at the range of exhibitions and activities that happen here; it's a place where you can learn new things in a fun and exciting way."
Milne spent part of her holidays doing just that when she participated in Auckland Museum's Urbanlife Summer Youth Programme.
Participants go behind-the-scenes to see the vast range of museum resources and gain practical training and work experience through a series of back-of-house tours and creative workshops.
Working with artist mentors and drawing inspiration from the museum's collections, participants then create responses through screen-printing, soundscapes, spoken word poetry, photography, devised theatre and Graff art.
"Most of my classmates were heading to university to study science, engineering, commerce and one or two were doing medicine," Milne says. "When I said I wanted to do a conjoint BA/BSc and museum studies as a postgraduate opportunity, they were like, 'why would you do that?' I think there's definitely a need for more awareness of the GLAM sector."
Auckland Museum's Youth Outreach Programmer Bethany Edmunds, herself a weaver, fibre sculptor and hip hop lyricist, says many don't realise there are fresh opportunities, aided by new technology, arising in the GLAM sector all the time.
She says anyone aged 15 to 24 is welcome to apply to be part of Urbanlife. The process involves filling out an application form and crafting a CV which demonstrates one has a strong interest in and desire to take part.
"It's an opportunity for all youth to be involved and to interact with others. So far, we've had a huge mix of people with different skill sets, experiences and backgrounds who come together and meet others they might not normally get a chance to interact with. I don't limit who can come; if a person has the drive to be involved then they should apply."
Urbanlife has been refined since its 2012 launch so it is now more intensive and focused. The theme for the 2015 programme was based around Auckland Museum's next major exhibition Taku Tamaki: Auckland Stories which opens next month.
The exhibition celebrates the region and its stories by bringing them to life through combining items from the museum's collections with cinema, digital technology, an artist's commission and a whole range of activities presented by real Aucklanders. Members of the public have been invited to share their stories of the city and its people.
"The perception is of museums having an authoritative voice but the sector is rapidly shifting away from that and realising we are not the sole experts," Edmunds says. "There's been a move to be more responsive to our communities, to invite them in to share their stories and create new narratives which are often more interactive and reflective of the communities around us.
"It's important to connect young people to their histories and create meaningful and relevant connections to our collections while giving them the creative tools so they can express themselves and share with their families and peer groups what they have learned and experienced."
Urbanlife 2015 participants spent two days at the University of Auckland's Waipapa Marae where they got to know one another and share their Auckland stories. Transport and housing were two of their biggest concerns; cultural diversity was one of the things they celebrate about their region. The following five days involved intensive workshops led by facilitators Black Friars, The Roots Creative Entrepreneurs and Sistar S'pacific.
The workshops culminated in a live performance featuring spoken word poetry and a song which Milne says became their youth anthem for Auckland. Set design and props came courtesy of the work Urbanlifers did with The Roots and costumes from the Sistar S'pacific workshop.
Milne says as well as making a new friend, one of her highlights was gaining even more insight into the life of the museum. For Edmunds, the highlight is always seeing young people gain confidence and knowledge.
"This year, one young woman said she was going to change her major so that was great!"
After Urbanlife, participants have the option of working with Auckland Museum on some of its holiday programmes for youth as well as being considered for its recently-formed Youth Advisory Group. The seven-member YAG helps the museum to create stronger links with Auckland's youth and to deliver content relevant to them.
"The aim is to create opportunities for them to engage across the whole museum, including policy development, new exhibitions, programmes specifically for a youth audience, collections and digital," Edmunds says. "The YAG will provide a strong youth voice for the museum to reflect back to national and international visitors and can help us achieve Auckland's aspirations for the museum.
What is Urbanlife?
Launched in 2012, Urbanlife is a creative programme run annually for Aucklanders aged 15 to 24.
The annual programme run by the Museum of Auckland provides an insight into the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector and related career opportunities.