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Rosa Olga Sansom

Museum director (1900-1989)

Said to be New Zealand’s first female museum director, Rosa Olga Sansom was born in Halfmoon Bay, Stewart Island. She was a school teacher and had children before she was appointed an honorary curator at the Southland Museum in 1948. Sansom became the director in 1953 and developed natural history displays, taught visiting students, and identified specimens of seaweeds and plants brought in by the public.

Sansom herself collected botanical specimens for over 50 years and accompanied senior biology classes from Southland Girls’ High School on field tramping trips, where she insisted that specimens should only be collected when they were necessary. She was secretary of the Southland branch of the Royal Society Te Apārangi from 1952 to 1959, a foundation member of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, and gave lectures for the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture.


1. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu Taonga, ‘Sansom, Rosa Olga’, Web page, accessed 29 October 2017, 5s2/sansom-rosa-olga.

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.