Jennifer Evans, recently appointed as director of the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Attendance at the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum is high, after
a major redevelopment, but recently appointed director
Jennifer Evans still draws some of her inspiration from
earlier, tougher times.
Ms Evans (51), who became director this week, still vividly
remembers meeting a previous museum director, the late
Elizabeth Hinds, in the 1980s, and subsequently being
impressed by her vision and commitment.
''It was her passion for the museum, and her determination to
do the best for the museum in very difficult circumstances,''
''Passion, it's really important,'' Ms Evans added.
Mrs Hinds' decision to paint some parts of the museum
exterior in lively colours had raised some eyebrows at the
time but was a ''statement to say we are here''.
She had been director from 1983 to 1996 and had to contend
with limited resources and a leaking, rundown museum complex.
And Mrs Hinds had warned museum treasures were being put at
risk because of the leaks, and big swings of temperature and
humidity, with little internal climate control.
Ms Evans said times were now much better at the museum, after
a successful $37.5 million redevelopment.
Also, there had been 268,739 visitors in the past financial
The nearby Dunedin Chinese Garden - now administered by the
museum - also attracted a record 40,208 visitors in the same
financial year ended June 30.
That meant an ''impressive'' total of more than 300,000
visitors at both attractions.
Dunedin-born, Ms Evans was delighted to be ''giving something
back'' to the ''fabulous'' city in which she had grown up.
Closer links between the museum and the Dunedin Chinese
Garden were already creating a ''win-win'' situation for both
attractions, she said.
The museum took over administrative responsibility for the
Chinese Garden, also a Dunedin City Council-owned facility,
on July 1 last year.
Ms Evans said the museum and the garden would retain their
separate identities, but planned new information material for
the museum would link its attractions more clearly with the
The garden also symbolised Dunedin's successful sister city
relationship with Shanghai.
She was keen to attract more visitors to the garden, and more
work had to be done to boost income there.
The museum's recent redevelopment had delivered strong museum
infrastructure, but there was still scope for further
improvements and refinements at the museum, including in
smarter energy use and more focus on sustainability.
''We're still learning how to drive the building,'' she
She aimed to foster more ''innovation and community
participation'' , and also planned an upgrade of the museum
internet site, as well as further moves to increase public
access to the collection.