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Museum Medals honour outstanding individuals

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Auckland War Memorial Museum has honoured the careers of five outstanding individuals in its annual Museum Medals ceremony, presented at a function at the Museum on Wednesday 19 October, 2016.​

The medals were presented to:

Dr Brian Gill - Associate Emeritus of Auckland War Memorial Museum

John Ross - Associate Emeritus of Auckland War Memorial Museum

Jenny Harper - Companion of Auckland War Memorial Museum

Bil Vernon - Companion of Auckland War Memorial Museum

Danny Te Puna Tumahai - Fellow of Auckland War Memorial Museum

Left to right: Jenny Harper, John Ross, Danny Te Puna Tumahai, Dr Brian Gill, and Bil Vernon

Images supplied

Auckland Museum Director Roy Clare said: "The Medals awarded to these outstanding individuals reflect the Museum’s long-standing commitment to excellence in the field of arts, culture and heritage. We warmly acknowledge the major contributions and the important legacies of these latest recipients, who now take their place among a well-respected and prestigious group of leaders in Aotearoa. It is an absolute pleasure to honour them; and to celebrate with their whānau and friends."

Dr Brian Gill and John Ross were made Associate Emeritus of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which recognises Museum staff or volunteers' noteworthy achievements. Their contributions to the interests of the Museum have been considerable with the potential for long-term benefit.

Jenny Harper and Bil Vernon were made a Companion of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which recognises their achievements to the public service of Auckland Museum and other New Zealand museums.

Danny Te Puna Tumahai was made a Fellow of Auckland War Memorial Museum for exemplary scholastic achievement relevant to the Museum's collections and activities. His contribution to Auckland Museum has been unique and valuable.

The event also featured a keynote address by His Excellency, Mr Mark Gilbert, United States Ambassador to New Zealand.

2016 Museum Medal Recipient Profiles

Dr Brian Gill – Associate Emeritus of Auckland War Memorial Museum

Dr Brian Gill studied zoology at Massey and Canterbury Universities and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Queensland. He was curator of land vertebrates at Auckland Museum from 1982 to 2013, including two years as coordinator of the natural history section.

Brian has published more than 120 technical papers and has written the following books: New Zealand's Extinct Birds (with Paul Martinson, 1991), New Zealand Frogs and Reptiles (with Tony Whitaker, 1996), New Zealand's Unique Birds (with Geoff Moon, 1999), The Owl that Fell from the Sky (2012) and The Unburnt Egg (2016).

For 18 years Brian co-edited the Records of the Auckland Museum and he edited the third and fourth editions of the Museum’s book Native Animals of New Zealand. He has served on numerous committees, including elected terms on the councils of the Ornithological Society, the Miranda Naturalists' Trust, and the Auckland Museum Institute (as staff representative).

Ten years as chairman of the Ornithological Society’s Checklist Committee culminated in publication of a new Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand (2010). Brian served on the editorial board of New Zealand Journal of Zoology and had a ministerial appointment to the Scientific Authorities Committee under the Trade in Endangered Species Act. In 2010 he received the Ornithological Society’s Robert Falla Memorial Award for sustained service to New Zealand ornithology.

John Ross - Associate Emeritus of Auckland War Memorial Museum

John Ross has been a volunteer at Auckland Museum since the opening of the Armoury Information Centre in 1997. During that time he has undertaken significant research using a variety of sources (specifically on ships and ship losses and most recently the WW2 Military Cross and Military Medal award citations to New Zealanders) which has led to the enrichment of Online Cenotaph records and provided the foundation of new digital resources.

John is a WW2 and Korea War veteran. In WW2 he served in the Merchant Navy and joined then Royal Navy serving in the Mediterranean and then on the Arctic Convoys delivering humanitarian supplies to the Russian people. He served in Korea with the NZ Army. John used his own history and experiences in talks and conducted tours for dignitaries and other visitors on topics relating to the merchant navy, animals at war, and the arctic convoys.

John has been a member of the Swanson RSA for over 20 years and has been their welfare officer for much of this time. He has provided an enquiry service for the Swanson RSA, and has frequently acted in a liaison role between Museum curators and veterans in the community wishing to donate items to the Museum. He has developed programmes such as a local RSA based service where he has delivered meals to around 30 elderly veterans each week. As much as the meals have been appreciated, it is the regular visits and conversation time that his fellow veterans and families have particularly enjoyed.

Jenny Harper - Companion of Auckland War Memorial Museum

Jenny Harper has been a leader in the art gallery sector in New Zealand for 35 years. Returning from Australia in the mid-1980s to take up a post as senior curator International Art at New Zealand’s National Art Gallery, Jenny also worked in the institutional planning team for the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, before returning to the National Art gallery as its last director.

Jenny then spent 12 years at Victoria University of Wellington. In that time she developed the art history department, becoming head of a larger school of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies in 2000.

In 2003 Jenny was appointed to the role of Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Academic). Jenny took up her current position as Director of the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu in October 2006. This has been a role with many unforeseen challenges following the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-11. The gallery was closed for some five years as a result, but Jenny and her staff became a ‘gallery without walls’ presenting more than a hundred Outer Spaces art projects and maintaining the profile of art in the city of Christchurch. Jenny was also Commissioner for New Zealand’s presentations at the Venice Biennales in 2009 and 2011 and again in 2013.

Bil Vernon - Companion of Auckland War Memorial Museum

William (Bil) Vernon graduated from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Commerce. In London in 1968 he transitioned from accountancy to IT, when he joined Beecham Group as a trainee systems analyst.

Returning to New Zealand in 1974 he worked as a software designer. In the early 1980's Bil built systems on the newly released personal computer for his partner's art gallery. Having proved the concept, the platform and software, he looked for a larger market, which led to his considering museums. He built a prototype system and exposed this for comment at the 1986 International Conference of Museums in Buenos Aires. The positive response cemented commitment to the museum area, and he set about developing the system and the company.

In the past thirty years Vernon Systems has built a client base of hundreds of museums around the world. It employs twelve staff based in Auckland, and generates significant export revenue. Bil retired from the company in 2006.

Danny Te Puna Tumahai - Fellow of Auckland War Memorial Museum

Danny Te Puna Tumahai is a nationally recognised kaumatua of Ngāti Whatua Orakei and chair of their Kaumatua Taumata. From 1996 to 2007 he was chair of the Museum's legislated Maori Advisory Committee: Taumata-ā-Iwi. He replaced the late Sir Hugh Kawharu as the Taumata's second appointee to the Museum Trust Board, carrying overall responsibility for alignment of Māori values (mana Māori, mana whenua, manaaki) at governance level.

Danny’s contributions have been recognised with the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal for Services. In 2002 he was awarded Companion of the Queen's Service Order for Community Service, and in 2010 he was bestowed the Good Citizens Award, Certificate of Appreciation from the Auckland City Council, Eastern Bays Community Board.

Danny advises departments of Courts, Correction, Education and Internal Affairs and is the kaumatua member of the hapu's Tribal Development subsidiary Board, Whai Mai Ltd.
On top of this he continuously fulfils civic duties on behalf of Ngāti Whatua Orakei, as Ahi kaa within Tāmaki Makaurau.