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Southern Royal Albatross, Diomedea epomophora. Collection of theSouthland Museum & Art Gallery Niho o te Taniwha. A42.51
Natural History Gallery diorama.

IN 1953, local woman Olga Sansom did something quietly revolutionary. She took the reins of the Southland Museum as its first female director.

At the time, few public institutions or businesses had women at the helm, with most women employed in support roles.

In contrast to her male predecessors whose contributions focused largely on filling the galleries and building the collection, Olga placed great emphasis on enhancing the role of the museum in educating school-age children.

This Southern Royal Albatross, or named, was one of a cast of characters, including Podgy the Penguin and Sammy the Seal, Olga used to educate young Southlanders about the value of preserving native plants and animals, and their habitats.

Snowy went on to star in a large diorama in the Natural History Gallery, which formed part of the displays at the museum until about 1975.

Olga’s story is one of many which illustrates the impact the rise of female leadership had in workplaces throughout New Zealand in the wake of World War 2.

Olga stands as an inspiring example for female professionals today as they strive towards gaining equal opportunities to fill sector leadership roles in their chosen fields.

As for Snowy, he and his have now been rehoused for long-term storage and travel.

The two crates, which are designed to be stored securely one above the other but come apart for transport, demonstrate how economically materials can be used to improve the safety of the collection and optimise valuable storage real estate.

Snowy and his storage crate can be seen at He Waka Tuia as part of the exhibition Crate Expectations, which offers a glimpse behind-the-scenes of both the Southland Museum & Art Gallery and the Invercargill Public Art Gallery.

  • Kimberley Stephenson is the collections manager at the Southland Museum & Art Gallery Niho o te Taniwha
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