Dr Rodney Wilson was the founding Director of the New Zealand National Maritime Museum from 1989 to 1994, now Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa New Zealand Maritime Museum.
Rodney came to us from the Director, Auckland Art Gallery and left us to become Director, Auckland War Memorial Museum and lead its major atrium redevelopment. In 2006 the NZ Herald named him their New Zealander of the Year.
Rodney’s own words capture the extent of the work he carried out so effectively that resulted in the widely acclaimed national maritime museum that New Zealanders and visitors now share.
“This was the ultimate "green fields" project. Commenced with no collection, no site, no staff and no money, (Rodney Wilson) acquired a prime central city waterfront site, assembled an impressive collection, raised the money, and built an array of buildings on a wharf and associated shore front, with jetties, marina and floating boat shed. Active workshops demonstrating maritime trades in action were included as well as a fascinating range of exhibits. More than 20 boat builders worked on the restoration of small craft, keel boats and powered vessels, while also building the first authentic trading scow to be built in seventy years, the "TED ASHBY"."
What he omitted to state was that the maritime museum opened on time and under budget.
Rodney’s efforts 20 years ago have ensured that our maritime heritage, which is an intrinsic part of who we are, will not be forgotten. Rodney’s memory will live on in this institution. In recent years Rodney stayed in touch with the maritime museum team and his original vision was shared recently with our executive, making valued input to our future planning. We had been looking forward to his input to the Pacific discovery story about which he had much expertise.
Fortunately some of his wisdom and knowledge has been captured in publications that he has participated in and/or fostered, but regrettably, his verbal advice will no longer be available. A due testament to Rodney’s foresight and the enduring quality of his vision is that changes we are considering at the Maritime Museum are merely evolutionary refinements of the vision that Rodney had for the Museum.
Dr Rodney Wilson was a shining star on our horizon and while that star has now gone, the glow will continue to shine on our lives and guide our deeds.
- New Zealand National Maritime Trust Board and Executive Team.