Cambridge farewells museum manager 

Former Cambridge Museum manager Kathryn Parsons pictured before her tenure ended with one of the collection’s paintings, a Dora James work entitled ‘Rocks at Whitehall’.  

After five years as Cambridge Museum manager, Kathryn Parsons has left to take up an appointment in Hamilton.

She will take up a role this month as research librarian for Hamilton City Library’s Heritage Collection. It’s a job that is closer to her professional roots and closer to home – she will be able to walk to work.

“I’ll be working as part of a research team, it’s really quite exciting,” she said.

This was Kathryn’s first foray into the world of museums.  After completing a degree in history, she spent 27 years at the Waikato University library, most of it as the New Zealand Collection Librarian. A long-held desire to see what museums might offer led her to Cambridge in 2016.

“There are a lot of transferable research skills involved in working at museums and libraries.  I’ve learned such a lot here… this museum and the wider Cambridge area has such rich history.”

One of the drawcards for Kathryn was the strength of the museum’s documentary heritage, something she said was due largely to people like Eris Parker and Susan Hague who put years of effort in.  That bedrock of knowledge made it easier for Kathryn to further investigate and expand the collection, reaching out to the community and developing a more public role for the museum.

Teamwork has been central to that role, she said.  Kathryn came on board in the same month that the museum’s administrator Karen Payne started, and they were joined early last year by Elizabeth Harvey.

Together, they have enhanced the museum’s website and created a series of online guides.

“I am particularly proud of those,” she said. “They came about as an alternative for people who couldn’t come into the museum but who wanted to do some research. They might be looking for information related either to their family or their home, or the building they now occupy.  Often, they can find the answers through the online guides, and lockdown has meant that more people have had the time to spend on it.”

Something else she is pleased with is the growing relationship between the museum and Cambridge High School, playing out mainly through the museum staff and Cambridge High School library manager Glenys Bichan.

Other interactive activities either started or grown under Kathryn’s watch is the promotion of power point presentations to groups and organisations, tailored to their particular requirements, and the start of the Cambridge News’ regular feature, Backchat.  It’s a monthly series initiated by artist Carole Hughes that tells the stories behind some of the town’s iconic buildings.  The series began in June last year and has a way to run yet.

One of the ‘best bits’ of her tenure, Kathryn noted, was her interaction with a loyal team of volunteers. “They are so dedicated to the collection … we simply couldn’t do any of this without them.”

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