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Aratoi’s fount of knowledge retires

Bronwyn Reid is retiring. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Aratoi’s human encyclopaedia Bronwyn Reid is retiring.

Reid, who has worked at the Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History for 24 years, is the collection manager.

She said it had been a fantastic job where she had learned a lot.

“I have felt proud to be part of the team that has served as the guardian of many taonga.”

But even retirement cannot separate Reid from art – printmaking and painting were beckoning her.

“I am looking forward to being a maker again, rather than an observer – printmaking and painting beckon.”

Aratoi director Susanna Shadbolt said Reid had made significant contributions to the art and history museum over the years.

“Bronwyn has an almost encyclopaedic – yet intimate – knowledge of the Aratoi Collection and its links with our communities,” Shadbolt said.

”She has served the community exceptionally well over the years, telling the stories of our region and beyond with intelligence and care, caring for taonga with devotion and meticulous attention, and working untold hours on so many exhibitions and catalogues, including Aratoi’s recent 50th anniversary exhibition and publication.”

Aratoi Regional Trust Board member Carlene Te Tau [Rangitāne o Wairarapa] acknowledged the mana that Reid has held at the museum, and in the community.

“Many whanau bring items to Aratoi because they know they will be cared for, and cherished.

“Bronwyn has been respectful of our taonga, and we are grateful for her care and expertise.”

Bronwyn started working at Aratoi in 1996 as a weekend minder.

She had been studying design and art at the Wairarapa Polytechnic, which served her well in communicating with visitors about the exhibitions on show.

Her job quickly expanded, with her role including the installation of exhibitions, the management of the collection, and a myriad of tasks with the 2002 rebuild when the former Wairarapa Arts Centre developed into a full museum.

Managing the collection is no small feat: Aratoi has close to 4000 items of regional, national, and international significance, from taonga Maori and social history, to artworks from the colonial to the contemporary.

Each item is documented, receives an individual accession number, and requires a significant amount of research to learn the stories and context.

They also require a climate and pest-controlled environment and earthquake-proofed storage.

And the collection is growing.

The Wairarapa and Wellington community has increased its support in recent years, particularly with donations of contemporary art.

“The Aratoi Collection is a wonderful community asset,” Reid said.

“It is here for the benefit of the community, and the museum as a whole is vital, especially for children, to learn more about Wairarapa – there is no other public collection of art in the region.”

When asked what her favourite item in the collection was, Reid said she could not possibly choose.

“Sometimes the huia, sometimes an 1870s Bragge photograph, a Lindauer portrait, or a John Drawbridge mezzotint – it’s the objects’ stories that engage me.”


  1. Bronwen, you brought such grace and knowledge to every encounter I was fortunate enough to have with you between 2001 and 2013. Thank you for all your help for visiting artists too. Happy making! Best Kay Flavell

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