The new Museum Director for Invercargill’s Te Unua Museum of Southland has been officially welcomed to the city in a mihi whakatau.
Te Unua Museum of Southland is part of Invercargill City Council’s Project 1225 development, which also includes the recently-completed Te Pātaka Taoka Southern Regional Collections Facility and a specialist tuatara enclosure within the animal reserve at Queens Park.
Eloise Wallace was appointed to the role, and officially made the move south from Tairāwhiti in the new year to take up the position.
Wallace was accompanied by representatives from Rongowhakaata, from the Tairāwhiti region, and was in turn welcomed to the takiwā by mana whenua from Waihōpai and Awarua rūnaka, as well as Council staff, at the Civic Theatre on Wednesday.
“The mihi whakatau was incredibly moving and emotional. While I’m sad to be saying goodbye to the community of Tairāwhiti, my family and I are delighted to be among Invercargill’s newest residents. The mihi whakatau was a wonderful opportunity to connect with this place,” she said.
“It is not often a city has the opportunity to build an entirely new regional museum facility, and I am incredibly excited to be part of such a significant and meaningful project. Invercargill and the wider Southland region boast a rich history and a wealth of stories, and I feel extremely privileged to be part of the team that has aspirations to celebrate these with locals and visitors once more.”
Wallace was born in Auckland, and grew up in Tauwhare, in rural Waikato. She has worked in the museum and heritage sector for more than two decades – both throughout New Zealand, and at the renowned Imperial War Museum London.
For more than eight years, she has been Director of Tairāwhiti Museum & Art Gallery, in Gisborne. She has also served as Co-Chair of Museums Aotearoa, New Zealand’s independent national body for museums and galleries, since 2021, and also serves as a trustee of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch.
An award-winning history curator, Wallace has also been Deputy Chair of Heritage Tairāwhiti, an organisation that supports the protection and recognition of historic places, and their stories, within the Tairāwhiti district and has been extensively involved within other organisations across the arts, heritage, culture, tourism, and education sectors in both Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay.
Invercargill City Council Chief Executive Michael Day said Project 1225, and the city, was fortunate to have appointed a Museum Director of Wallace’s calibre to lead the development of such a key cultural facility.
“Eloise brings incredibly impressive expertise to Invercargill, and we are thrilled to have officially welcomed her to the position of Museum Director,” he said.
“Having a contingent of iwi representatives from Tairāwhiti travel all the way to Invercargill says it all: Eloise was clearly deeply treasured by the people of Tairāwhiti, and I hope she is equally treasured here in the south. She has an extensive background in the museums and heritage sector, and Project 1225 – and indeed, our wider community – will no doubt benefit immensely from the direction Te Unua Museum of Southland takes under her leadership.”
The base build of Te Unua Museum of Southland is scheduled to be completed by December 2025. The museum will be opened to the public in late 2026, following its interior fit-out.