Meet Charis – Public Programmes Manager
What attracted you to working at the Navy Museum?
I joined the Navy Museum in 2009, on a one-year contract to write education programmes for the new museum at Torpedo Bay. Back then, I was attracted to the role because I could use my experience as a teacher in a more creative context. The museum I walked into in 2009 looked like a thousand sailor’s keepsake closets combined into one, with every square inch of wall space covered in photographs and objects, smelling like rope tar and shining with Brasso. It was a wonderful museum. And I had no idea what a privilege and what great fun it would be, to be part of the dynamic change the museum would go through in the next ten years.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
The people. My colleagues. Navy personnel, retired and currently serving. The visitors.
What do you enjoy least?
Setting off the alarm when I’m half asleep first thing in the morning and I punch in the wrong code. Torpedo Bay is so serene in the morning and the alarm is really, really loud.
Name your favourite object in the Museum and explain why you chose it.
The Dragon Cuffs we had on loan for the Navy’s 75th Anniversary exhibition. After the Second World War through to the 70’s, the Navy committed to having one warship constantly stationed in the Far East Strategic Reserve. These were long deployments and the ship crews would form strong bonds with local merchants like tailors and cobblers. One of these tailors, Chang Kee, who was authorised to make new uniforms for sailors, would on special request sew embroidered dragons on the inside of the uniform cuffs. When the sailors went ashore they would turn up their cuffs to reveal their dragons. I love the idea of dragons hiding in shirtsleeves.
What’s the most memorable thing you have done since being at the Museum?
2017 was the centenary of William Sanders being awarded the Victoria Cross, which is the only time a New Zealander was awarded the VC for a naval action. That year, we ran a number of public programmes on the theme of courage. The explorations on courage – with students, with people in the Navy, with friends and strangers – will stick with me for ever.
Name the funniest moment since you joined the Museum?
Sorry, I can’t talk publicly about the funniest moments! One example of the collective good humour within the Museum is the year we all tie-dyed t-shirts and wore them to our Christmas outing on Waiheke. Actually to single that out as a funny moment isn’t right: I think it was a moment of genius and inspiration, that I think re-ignited the tie-dye fad in the fashion world a few years back.
How do you enjoy spending your time outside work?
I have the best family in the world, so outside work I spend time with them. My children love to talk and eat and move their bodies and make things (all at once, if possible!), so I love to do those things with them. I also like to run.