Embracing training and effecting positive change at Mokau Museum and Gallery

By Jan Brown, Volunteer, Mokau Museum and Gallery

Mokau Museum and Gallery rests on the main highway bordering Waikato (Ngati Maniapoto) to the north and Taranaki (Ngati Tama) to the south. It is a small rural museum which has been operating for 37 years. The museum undertook a revamp in 2017 as part of a ‘Heritage Rescue’ episode which screened on Choice TV.

The purpose of Mokau Museum and Gallery is to bring to life the history of the Tainui region and to make accessible artefacts, documents and photographs relating to this area. Visitors are able to handle many of the artefacts and archives in our care and this is a major drawcard for them and a point of difference to the larger museums in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Mokau Museum and Gallery before ‘Heritage Rescue’ revamp. Photo courtesy of Mokau Museum and Gallery

Mokau Museum and Gallery after ‘Heritage Rescue’ revamp. Photo courtesy of Mokau Museum and Gallery

Mokau Museum and Gallery is open seven days a week and I volunteer for duty on a Tuesday morning. I am secretary at the museum, a role I have performed for three years since retiring to North Taranaki after a career in education.

I trained as a secondary school teacher, taught briefly in Auckland, then moved to New Plymouth to teach primary. The final decade of my career saw me complete a Masters Degree in Adult Literacy and Numeracy education and I was engaged at the Western Institute of Technology (WITT) teaching the tutors. Retirement followed and the search for meaningful voluntary work began.

Not long after joining the team at Mokau Museum and Gallery, I felt a need for professional training in museum practice. The sector was one I knew nothing about, yet I was keen to help where I could.  The current chairperson also sought an academic base for her work, so the two of us enrolled in the New Zealand Certificate in Museum Practice with Service IQ.

Find out more about the Service IQ New Zealand Certificate in Museum Practice

The study helped us in our understanding of protocols, both Maori and Pakeha and gave a sense of where Mokau Museum and Gallery stood in the sector. We knew we had a compelling story to tell, so we entered our museum into the 2017 New Zealand Museum Awards – and we won the category for “Excellence in Visitor Experience”.

Jan Brown and Amanda Griffin (Collections Manager) celebrating Mokau Museum and Gallery’s Excellence in Visitor Experience award at the Service IQ 2017 New Zealand Museum Awards. Photo courtesy of Jan Brown

Having two volunteers with the qualification provides necessary back-up for the band of “lay” volunteers and this year, two more volunteers are engaging in study for the same certificate with Service IQ.

Choosing the right strands of study within the qualification is crucial. I chose areas that were going to be of practical help in my work. Of particular note, I found the tikanga Māori paper invaluable, as well as the paper based on holding an event, which the museum was able to put into practice almost immediately, hosting a bone carving workshop for carvers from all corners of the North Island.

Completing the New Zealand Certificate in Museum Practice. Photograph courtesy of Jan Brown 

Working at Mokau Museum and Gallery is both rewarding and fulfilling. Coordinating a team always has its challenges – not all people embrace change. However change has kept Mokau Museum and Gallery alive and because of those changes it continues to be a place that inspires, informs, educates and entertains.

Find out more about the Mokau Museum and Gallery