Waipā District Council heritage expert Anne Blyth is one of only three New Zealanders accepted into a prestigious cultural leadership programme at the University of Oxford.

Anne, who has been Council's director of museums and heritage for the last seven years, will join 24 other international experts for an intense, one-week programme in the United Kingdom next month.

Other delegates include Laura Bell from the Royal Armouries in the UK, Richard Benjamin from the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool and Katherine Krile from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

The only other New Zealanders accepted into the programme are Steven Fox from Auckland's Museum of Transport and Technology and Bronwyn Labrum from Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.


The residential programme will focus on developing commercial acumen and the delivery of new business models within an innovative and fast-changing museum environment.

It will encourage entrepreneurial thinking with all delegates staying together at historic Corpus Christi College.

The programme is led by a world-class faculty, including Royal Opera House chief executive Alex Beard, executive director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Catherine Mallyon, chief executive of Arts Council England Darren Henley and the British Library head of corporate affairs, Miki Lentin.

Anne is paying her own personal costs, as well as the course costs. Te Awamutu Museum Trust Board is paying the airfare and Waipā District Council has provided six days' study leave.

"I'm thrilled, if slightly overwhelmed, to be accepted for the programme which launched in 2015 and is always over-subscribed," says Anne.

Council's plans to build Te Ara Wai, a new exhibition, cultural and information centre in Te Awamutu with a strong focus on the New Zealand Land Wars, played a key part in her selection, she said.

"Te Ara Wai will be nationally and internationally significant because it will, finally, tell the largely untold stories of the New Zealand Land Wars which shaped our country," she says.

"People around New Zealand and across the world are already very interested in what we're doing and this is a brilliant opportunity to learn from experts and bring that knowledge back to Waipā."


Anne says she is passionate about connecting communities to their heritage and museums.

"At Te Awamutu Museum we don't want anyone to be excluded or not be able to participate for any reason," she says.

"We try to be inclusive, with public programmes and other ways the community can interact with us."

She says to some extent, taking a more entrepreneurial approach to the role of a museum is inevitable, so the UK course will be invaluable moving forward.

Anne has more than 13 years' management experience in museums including at Waikato Museum in Hamilton and as director of national services for Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

The Oxford-based programme, delivered in association with SAID Business School, begins on April 7.