At 24, Gilbert Archey began his museum career as Assistant Curator for Canterbury Museum in 1914, and served during World War I with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force from 1916. For his services in the war, he was appointed to the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1919. At the war's close, Archey resumed his work at the Canterbury Museum, and from there was appointed director of the Auckland Institute and Museum in 1924.
Archey was instrumental in the development of the Museum during a period of significant growth. He oversaw the construction of the Museum's current building, completed in 1929, and he led the development of many of the Museum's displays, research facilities, and education programmes. Archey is also recognised for leading contributions to studies of Māori and Pacific art, and to New Zealand zoology. His 1922 study of native frogs led to the rare species L. Archeyi being named in his honor. Today, the species is commonly nicknamed “Archey’s frog.”
At the outbreak of the Second World War, due to his work in museums in New Zealand, Archey was seconded to the South East Asia Command, under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies, where he worked with the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives programme from 1945-1946.
After returning to New Zealand in 1946, Archey returned to his position as Director of Auckland Museum and remained committed to the preservation of Eastern art and culture. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1958 and created Knight Bachelor in 1962. After 40 years of Directorship at the Auckland Museum he was appointed Director Emeritus on his retirement.
Sir Gilbery Archey died in Auckland, New Zealand on October 20, 1974, shortly after completing his final book,Whaowhia: Maori art and its artists (1977).
60th anniversary of Auckland Institute, 1927, Gilbert Archey pictured second from the right. Auckland War Memorial Museum, PH-PR-182.