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Meet Natalie Gilberd  – the latest addition to the Nelson Museum

I sit here writing on the floor amongst boxes and more than enough packing paper to keep the neighbourhood wood-burners alight for a year. Last week’s shift to Nelson was the culmination of a good few months of remote working from Wellington for the Nelson Provincial Museum, and follows a five-month stint in the Nelson Tasman region mid-winter last year.

Despite the ice and indoor clothes-drying at that time, my young family and I fell in love. While the younger me had needed Wellington – I spent around 17 years there all up – for Natalie, the working mum, Nelson has it all.

I feel very fortunate to be able to contribute to the region through the Nelson Provincial Museum. My role as Engagement Leader sees me managing the marketing, sponsorship and retail side of things there, and it couldn’t feel like a better fit.

I grew up immersed in conversations about world history. My dad has a degree in the subject and my grandparents – both sets – spent the WW2 years packing bunkers in London in-between trooping around Africa. I was also one of the many who emigrated from South Africa to New Zealand in the late 1980s to escape the weight of apartheid. It wasn’t until I grew into my early 20’s that I realized what a treasury of world stories I had gleaned through my childhood.

My other major interest lies in the creative field. I gained a Bachelor in Design in the early 2000’s and am currently pursuing a Masters in Management (Marketing). My work in the arts sector has included a number of years at the New Zealand (Arts) Festival, managing a theatre venue in the UK, and running a good number of small literature and comic-oriented festivals.  

For me, working in the cultural sector allows me to engage with my interests at a deeper and more interactive level. There’s nothing like the experiential marathon of 38 events in three weeks to stimulate creativity, and there’s no better way to learn than to bear witness.

My memories of childhood trips to London are dominated by playful scenes at the Science Museum and gruesome awakenings on behalf of its infamous Tower. And those readers who have ever seen a live Lemi Ponifasio dance performance might nod knowingly at my use of the word “epochal”.

In my time I’ve learned that while not every cultural experience can deliver a connection, those that do are simply invaluable. The trick is to keep getting out there, to keep immersing oneself in what’s on offer – and there’s a lot going on in Nelson – in the pursuit of the ultimate prize. My theory here is that the brain needs packing, as much as the wood-burner, in order to light a fire.

Written by Natalie Gilberd, Engagement Leader, Nelson Provincial Museum.

The Nelson Provincial Museum’s next exhibition, Kura Pounamu: Our Treasured Stone, is on from 24 August – 24 November. More at

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