MUSEUM MAN: Nils Pokel has recently been hired as Nelson Provincial Museum’s experience manager. Photo Charles Anderson.

New museum man looks to future


Nils Pokel can see it now – a museum that is a destination for Nelsonians, complete with a children’s outdoor learning playground, immersive digital exhibitions, and exciting collaborations which promote the region’s culture and heritage.

“It’s very exciting for me,” says the former digital experience manager at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum.

But now Nils is the experience manager at Nelson Provincial Museum.

He is only three weeks into the new role but is already brimming with ideas.

His job is to look at the experience of all visitors who come to the museum – from when they learn about it to when they walk through the doors, to when they tell their friends about it.

“We really want to make this place shine, which is more than just being the kaitiaki (guardian) of old, dusty things. ”

“While that’s a central function of what we do, I’m really interested in making the museum more relevant and contemporary. ”

“We want a destination that instils a sense of pride and wow in this place.”

Originally from Germany, Nils has worked in the digital sector for 15 years as a producer and creative director and was also central in helping Auckland Museum embrace the digital revolution – spearheading virtual reality and augmented reality exhibitions as well as utilising artificial intelligence and image recognition.

“There are some really clever things which we can do with the assets we have, at a relatively low cost. ”

“It’s all about helping us appreciate and unlock things.”

As part of a bigger plan, he wants to make the museum a more visual landmark in the CBD.

For example, he says the outdoor space on the first floor of the museum could be utilised for a much more ambitious vision.

“I love the idea of an outdoor learning space where children can have fun and learn but also reflects the community.”

It could be designed alongside children and have slides that emerge from the museum’s outdoor walls to entice people into the space.

“But that is long term idea,” he admits.

In the shorter term, there is a plan to show off the Tyree Collection – a set of more than 100,000 photos that depict the very beginnings of Nelson starting in 1878.

The collection has recently been digitised and gained a spot on the Unesco register – a huge honour for the museum.

Nils says already Nelson’s lifestyle has delivered dividends for him and his young family.

“It means I don’t spend two days a week in traffic. Now I can be at work in four minutes and at the beach in seven.”

“The people have all been wonderful too. It’s been really great for my wellbeing.”

Nils says there is an open invite to anyone in Nelson who is creative and innovative to come and talk to him about potential collaborations.

“I’m sure those people are out there. ”

“New Zealand is great that we can experiment and make things happen.”