Internship provides experience and inspiration

Rosemary Baird interviews recent PACE intern Laura Bythell.


Intern Laura Bythell talks to an archaeologist at a table with artefacts in front of them.
Clara Watson of Underground Overground explains the artefacts’ provenance to Laura. Photo: HNZPTexpand/collapse

Rosemary: How did you come to have an internship at Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga?

Laura: I believe the reason I was placed in this internship is because when you apply for a PACE internship they ask you about your favourite subjects. One of my favourites was a Roman Architecture class I took last year. I became really excited about buildings and architectural history through that paper.

When they told me I had an internship at Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga I thought I’d better do some research. I think a lot of people don’t fully understand what we do here. It wasn’t until after I’d met my supervisor, Robyn Burgess, and read more of the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act that I really understood more.

Even though you might wish Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga could chain themselves to a building to stop it from getting bowled over, I now know it’s not that straightforward. I believe that the work Heritage New Zealand does is super important.

Rosemary: What project have you been working on at Te Whare Waiutuutu Kate Sheppard House?

Laura: I’ve been creating three folders as a resource of primary and secondary sources. The first folder contains primary sources relating to Kate Sheppard, her friends, and family. The second one is focused on the history of this house, and the wider history of the area. Today I’ve been printing out more on the history of Riccarton, which is interesting. It’s a long time since I was in primary school, and I don’t remember much Christchurch history. The third folder contains the activities that Kate was involved in: the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Suffrage, and the National Council of Women.

These will be valuable resources for anyone, especially students and researchers, who want to learn more and do their own analysis, and I just like the idea that they are there at people’s fingertips.

It’s great to know there are people out there who studied the arts and have their dream job.
Artefacts including an old bottle on plastic wrapping.
Some of the Ada Wells artefacts Laura featured in her social media reels. Photo: HNZPTexpand/collapse

Rosemary: Can you tell me about the social media reels you made for us about archaeological artefacts connected to suffragist Ada Wells?

Laura: The six reels I made were incredibly fun! The first reel received nearly 3000 views, which I was pleased with. I enjoy nerdy podcasts and watching reels as I don’t always have the longer attention span to read a blog post or a write-up on a building. I think it’s a fun way for people to get those little information chunks. It was more labour intensive than I expected! I thought, ‘I’ll just say it and the words will come out of my face’, but then I had to try to seem natural and not look like I was having a small heart attack in front of the camera.

Rosemary: Has doing this internship changed any thoughts about work after finishing your study?

Laura: It’s made me feel more hopeful about the future. That might sound like a silly thing, but my first job when I was 16 was working at Pak ‘n Save where I worked for four and a half years. You work these part-time jobs through university, and you end up thinking that you’re going to work in that kind of place forever. It’s quite demoralizing as it’s not the type of job that allows me to use my interests and education. An internship at Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga has shown me there are jobs out there for arts graduates. People always say there are, but it’s one thing to know something and one thing to experience it. I don’t have to be terrified of graduating. Everyone at the office seems to genuinely enjoy their job which is so heart-warming. It’s great to know there are people out there who studied the arts and have their dream job.

Rosemary: How has it been working as part of an office team?

Laura: It’s been nice spending time in the office around other people doing their jobs. I know that I have learned skills just being around professionals. It makes me feel more motivated to see people doing their thing. Everyone cares about their job, but they also care about each other. There’s a sense of empathy within the office, which has been amazing. Just generally being in the office has restored my faith in humanity.