MOTAT Museum Director and Chief Executive, Craig Hickman-Goodall. Photo by Mark Smith.

Q&A: MOTAT Museum Director and Chief Executive, Craig Hickman-Goodall


Craig Hickman-Goodall is the new Museum Director and Chief Executive of Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). He steps up to lead as MOTAT wins an international award, opens an innovative new science and technology centre and celebrates its 60th birthday.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you bought up, where did you study, what’s your background?

I was born in Nigeria, went to boarding school in North Wales and the studied a BSc(Hons) at Surrey University. My career in the UK was in hospitality before coming to Aotearoa New Zealand in 2002. Since then, I have had a good career leading a few of Aotearoa’s higher profile venues and museums. My Father was Welsh, and my Mother is an East Ender.

What experience have you had that qualifies you for the MOTAT top job?

I led business, arts and tourism for Hastings District Council, including the redevelopment of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House and the creation of the Hastings City Art Gallery; I was CEO of the St James Theatre and Opera House; CEO of North Harbour Stadium through the 2011 Rugby World Cup; Head of Business Operations for Auckland Live; Deputy Director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and most recently, Chief Operating Officer for MOTAT – amongst other exciting roles.

MOTAT Q+A portrait INP

MOTAT Museum Director and Chief Executive, Craig Hickman-Goodall. Photo by Mark Smith.

What is it about MOTAT that attracted you?

As the Chief Operating Officer for MOTAT I have been responsible for supporting all the operational requirements of our fantastic museum. As the Director and Chief Executive, my focus moves more towards fulfilling the future strategy and vision for MOTAT, while having the honour of being responsible for our people and visitors.

MOTAT is great fun and it’s also so important in telling the story both of our heritage and what technology and innovation could bring in our future.

Is the ‘Museum Director’ part of your role distinct from the ‘Chief Executive’ part – and if so, what are those parts?

The titles are intertwined. The Museum Director title relates to Museology and best practice in terms of restoring, looking after and exhibiting the collection, leading a team of qualified professionals in the different fields, conservation, registration, curatorial for example.

The CE title relates to the more business, governance and legal responsibility for the museum.

Funding is an ongoing challenge for public art galleries and museums in New Zealand. Is that something that worries you?

Yes, it is a constant worry for the whole museum and cultural sector and has been for all the years I have been in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Do you have a strategy to tackle that?

Yes, we do. The most important part to remember as we tackle these challenges is our responsibility for the collection, our people and visitors and that we are funded by the ratepayers of Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau.

Why is it important that New Zealand’s heritage and culture institutions are supported?

We are key to cultural identity, an important part of who we are and who we identify with. We are also evidentially key to wellbeing. At MOTAT our vision is using the past, present and future technology and ingenuity of Aotearoa to educate and inspire the innovators of tomorrow.

MOTAT Q+A exhibition INP

MOTAT covers the history of flight in New Zealand.

What’s new at MOTAT?

In the newly refurbished Aviation Hall we have a fantastic digital experience covering the history of flight in Aotearoa New Zealand, Te Kōtiu, which recently won an international award – Best Use of Digital – International category at the prestigious Museums + Heritage Awards in London. And in May this year we opened Te Puawānanga, our newly redeveloped SciTech Centre.

How do you see MOTAT developing over the next decade?

The funding challenge we face makes large improvements to the buildings (spread over 15 hectares and on old landfill) difficult. There will be a continued focus on using public money as wisely as possible to show as much of the collection as we can; to educate and delight our visitors.

We are a museum that is, hopefully, a ‘lightbulb institution’ with a transformative impact on our community.

What do visitors to MOTAT love most?

Where to start! The trams, the pumphouse, the trains, the aviation collection, the motor collection just as a start – I like to call us the punk rock museum, big fun and at times noisy.

What is your favourite exhibit at MOTAT?

I love it all! Who knows what my favourite will be tomorrow – it changes all the time and continually excites me.


Story by Kath Webster for the Winter 2024 issue of AA Directions Magazine. Kath Webster is the Editor of AA Directions Magazine.

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