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Waikato Museum welcomes new director

22 November 2021

Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato has a new Director to lead the team in sharing the tales and taonga of the region.

Elizabeth (Liz) Cotton brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the role of Director of Museum and Arts, which she stepped into this week.

Liz comes from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where she was Head of Planning and Operations. She has previously held roles such as Head of Human History at Tamaki Paenga Hira/Auckland War Memorial Museum and Senior Advisor at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

With a life-long passion for history, Liz is excited to learn about Waikato’s rich heritage.

“History has always fascinated me, and I wanted to work in museums even when I was a little girl. Waikato Museum is a treasure trove – I’m looking forward to finding new and different ways to share our stories and connect communities with their collections and history.”

Liz completed a Master of Arts in Ancient History with Honours from the University of Auckland and a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Studies (with Distinction) from Massey University, and is a graduate of the Getty Leadership Insitute. She was previously Co-Chair and Board Member for Museums Aotearoa Board (2018-2021), Chair of the Portage Ceramics Trust Board and is a member of the International Council of Museums (ICOM ANZ) Committee. She has a strong passion for Te Ao Maaori, which she looks forward to bringing to her directorship.

One of many career highlights for Liz was her involvement in the working group that saw the Te Pahi medal return to Aotearoa New Zealand, an important taonga that had been missing for 200 years. Liz went to Sydney to collect the cherished medal, following a successful co-purchase bid between Auckland Museum, Te Papa and Te Pahi’s descendants, and bring it back to New Zealand where it is currently on display at Auckland Museum.

“There are special moments like those that remind you of how important museums are to communities. One taonga can mean so much and connect intimately with people on an intergenerational level.”

“Liz has an incredible understanding of museums and the role they play for communities. Her knowledge and vision stood out through a long and extensive recruitment process.

“We’re thrilled to have Liz join the team and know she’ll bring brilliant insights to the Museum.”

Liz’s initial focus will be getting to know the Waikato Museum team and the many communities the Museum serves.

With plenty of exciting projects in the pipeline – including capital projects and dozens of exhibitions and programmes in the works – Liz is looking forward to an exciting and fast-paced start to her role.

“Museums have always been a place to preserve and protect the stories and material culture of a place,” Liz said. “They’re also becoming a place to facilitate learning and through genuine sharing of power and voice they also represent a region’s culture and community at the current time. They are about the past, but they’re equally about the present and future too.”