Arrowtown museum director celebrates 25 years

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In 1989, Lakes District Museum’s new director was described as a young, imaginative person with lots of hair and a ring in his ear. 

Twenty-five years on, David Clarke’s hair might have thinned but his enthusiasm, innovation and legendary DIY skills are still being put to good use. 

The man himself reckons he’s opened his Arrowtown door 6500 times and has put in something like 52,000 hours. 

After 10,000 hours you’re considered an expert at something, he quips, so perhaps he’s just about getting it right. 

Clarke arrived at the museum having done a swag of different jobs – including a stint roofing the Tiwai Point smelter – after finishing his Otago University history degree. 

Long-serving museum board member Ann Bain says Clarke sees an issue and gets things done. 

That includes serving two terms as Arrowtown’s ward councillor when no one else stuck their hand up – and he remains a planning commissioner. 

He was instrumental in the museum buying the Arrowtown Post Office, saving a row of cottages on Arrowtown’s main street, plus Queenstown’s Williams Cottage. 

The museum building itself has also been extensively revamped and extended. Then there’s the invaluable 600 hours of interviews he’s done with about 370 subjects to bolster the district’s historical records. 

Fundraising is one of his fortes, Bain says – he secured a Ministry of Education contract for an education officer. 

His contribution to the area, and the protection of its history, is amazing, she says. 

Clarke says after 25 years maybe the museum needs fresh blood – that it’s time for a change. 

What would he do? “Yeah, I don’t know.” 

At a function last year, he signed a napkin in front of Justice of the Peace Lex Perkins to say he would think about another job on his 25th anniversary in the position. That’s today. 

His wife, Wendy, has been pointing to the napkin fixed to the fridge. 

“We’ll see,” Clarke says.