As a young girl, she often visited the museum and was fascinated by the history that lay within it - not knowing she would one day make her own history there.

After more than 150 years since it was established, the Auckland War Memorial has appointed the first woman, Orchid Atimalala, to the role of Trust Board chair.

Atimalala, who takes over from long-serving chairman Dr William Randall, also becomes the first person of Pasifika descent to occupy the seat.

She has come a long way - the daughter of a church minister, Rev Mose Atimalala, and the child of immigrant parents who moved from American Samoa in the early 1970s for a better opportunity for their children.


The museum happened to be one of her father's much-loved places - often taking his three children there as he researched in the museum library.

"He'd bring us with him and we'd be running around the museum while he was sitting in the library.

"We grew up in this space - it holds dear to me.

"But what holds more dear to me is that it becomes more relevant and more reflective of the Auckland of the future.''

Having graduated with a Bachelor of Planning from Auckland University, she brings to the role a range of skills and experience working in local government, both in New Zealand and Australia.

She has been a member of the Museum's Trust Board for five years and has a background in strategic advisory and governance roles - including on the North Shore City Council and the Auckland Regional Council.

Atimalala was also the deputy chair for the Pacific Peoples Advisory Panel, for the Auckland Council.

"Through my career, I've developed an interest in strategic planning and lifting eye lines, really, and seeing what might change now to affect what might happen and how things will look in 20, 30, 50 and even 100 years' time."


Roles in community-based strategic planning, including one in Darwin, heightened an interest in community development, which then turned into a passion to be involved in community leadership.

There are six priorities the museum is looking to achieve over the next five years, she said, including reaching out to more people and transforming the building and collections to enhance the visitor experience.

There is an aim to get visitor numbers up to 1.2 million by 2022 - a huge jump from the 859,000 people who walked through its doors last year.

She wants to see more diverse collections - reflecting a fast-changing Auckland population - and turn the museum into a more inclusive and diverse place.

"So that this museum becomes their cultural home," she said.

"So that this museum moves with them and reflects not just their aspirations for the culture, but the aspirations of future Aucklanders - however they look."

People could look forward to big improvements over the next few years; with a promise to share more stories from around the world.

"A lot of people see museums as mausoleums. And we need those stories to keep this place alive."