From singer-songwriter, award-winning blogger, and author to Rotorua museum director, Lizzie Marvelly has had a busy six months learning the ropes of her newest venture. Marvelly sits down with Stephanie Arthur-Worsop to talk about her appointment, aspirations and the museum's progress.
A "Rotorua girl, a Ngāti Whakaue girl", Lizzie Marvelly feels a heavy but beautiful weight on her shoulders to do right by her people in the role of museum director.
It's a role that encompasses her thoughts day and night, but also one that offers opportunities for groundbreaking innovation in the sector.
"I feel so honoured to be in this role. It is a beautiful opportunity to do some amazing mahi but I also keenly feel that I don't want to stuff it up for my people."
Marvelly said the first six months of her appointment had been an "incredible time" full of new learnings and reconnecting.
"Rotorua is my home, my turangawaewae, so I've spent a lot of time reconnecting with whānau and reconnecting with people in the community.
"I was in Auckland for 10 years and was touring overseas before then so I've been away from home for quite a long time and I've felt increasingly this hankering over the past couple years to come home.
"It's hard to put into words the feeling that comes with being home. I think it's something to do with being mana whenua, being able to go and visit aunties and uncles and be on the marae, it's really good for my soul.
"It's been an incredible, not just professional journey, but personal journey as well."
She freely admits her appointment as museum director was not a conventional one but says the skills she brings to the role are lateral.
"I think people can often find it challenging when something unconventional happens and yes, my appointment was unconventional but my motivation for being here is because I love this rohe, I love our people and our stories and I've always loved this institution.
"When I was in my final interview, I said to the committee that I just wanted the best person for the role to get it and if that wasn't me, then I would completely understand and endorse the decision because this institution is far bigger than its director.
"Its history and its future are far too important for one person to have such a massive impact. I'm here to try to steer the helm in the direction that the team, that our pukenga koeke has determined as being the way forward.
"I also think nothing worth doing is easy and there will be many challenges along the way but in a few years, people will hopefully be able to see the realisation of the vision."
Marvelly said her focus since taking on the role in July had been gearing up to relaunching the museum, which is expected to be another two to three years away.
"The building being closed does pose challenges for us, but it's also an opportunity because we are in this unique position where we have both the time and space to focus on exhibition redevelopment and do some quite exciting, challenging, groundbreaking things.
"In the next 12 months we will be going out and listening to the community to get an understanding of the stories our people want to be told, the experiences they want to have, and more importantly, the way they want to feel when they walk into the whare taonga, how they want the moko and tamariki to feel, similarly how they want their koeke to feel.
"We want to make sure that we layer our storytelling in such a way that it's accessible and interesting to all members of the whānau.
"On average, only about 1 per cent of the collections in any institution are on display. There are things in the pātaka that have never been on display and there are so many opportunities in this redevelopment to really look at the stories we are telling, the themes we're focusing on, the visitor experience and how we link all of our various stories together."
Marvelly said she and her team also had aspirations for how the museum would reopen to the public.
"There's a lot of discussion around decolonisation in institutions and from our perspective, it's more about wanting to build a meaningful, long-lasting partnership with Te Arawa.
"That concept has been applied to varying degrees of success around the country and for us, it's really about doing things in a proudly Te Arawa way.
"Being mana whenua myself, I feel a huge amount of excitement about this opportunity, but also a great deal of responsibility because we are the kaitiaki of these taonga."
Alongside hui and community outreach, Marvelly said engagement would be ramping up in the next six to 12 months as well, with plans to take some taonga out to the community.
"It'll be a process in itself, and requires a lot of consideration around the protection of the particular objects but it's something that the team is really passionate about doing.
"They've taken the odd taonga out, but we've never had an organised, sustained programme."
Other offerings the museum team is looking at developing are tours at the off-site offices so the public can see the collections.
"When you don't have a public-facing building, you need to look at all the opportunities to create access and experiences for people and I hope that doesn't end when we're back in the building because there are so many incredible things we can do outside of the walls.
"One aspiration that I have, which, may be very pie in the sky, but I would love to create an outdoor children's exhibition that's play-based, where they're learning about the stories of this place while also running, jumping, screaming, laughing, just being children.
"A lot of my thinking while learning about the museum profession is what we can do differently.
"I suppose that could be one of the advantages that I have coming from the outside is having a different set of experiences that make me think in a different way.
"There are so many amazing things that we could do that the question really has to be, rather than why but why not?"
Just over $53 million has been raised from Rotorua Lakes Council, Provincial Growth Fund, Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust, NZ Lottery Grants Board, Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the Phillip Verry Charitable Foundation which will go towards strengthening and restoring the building.
Funding for exhibitions is still being raised, with the help of the Rotorua Museum Centennial Trust.
Pre-construction work continues at Rotorua Museum. Removal of asbestos was completed prior to Christmas 2020 and most of the basement and heritage features have been removed and preserved.
Full construction phase will get under way this year.
Completion of the project is two to three years away.