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Valerie Carson (nee MacDonald)


Inducted 2013
Student at Marsden 1949 (Form 2/Year 8) – 1953 (Form VY/ Year 12)


Valerie receives this award in recognition of her work as New Zealand’s foremost textile conservator, and for her continued interest and encouragement in the appreciation of textiles throughout the community.

Abandoning a career as a school dental nurse, Valerie followed her love of embroidery and in 1979 was the first New Zealander to be accepted to study at the Textile Conservation Centre, then based in Hampton Court, England. On her return to New Zealand she began her conservation career at the National Museum, the forerunner of Te Papa. Over 27 years Valerie developed the work and expertise of the Conservation Unit of the museum and supported similar work in regional museums. Initially her work included the conservation of a wide variety of objects and materials but with her specialist knowledge of textiles she soon became responsible for textiles especially those of Maori and Pacific origin. Well respected, her knowledge was soon sought by Maori and other indigenous people across the globe. “She literally wrote the book on textile conservation in New Zealand and has provided internship with some of our best textile conservators including Rangi te Kanawa” 

Valerie’s skills have been seen in many national exhibitions including Te Maori, Japonism in Fashion and Versace, and more recently the exhibition of Dame Malvina Major’s gowns in Kirkcaldie and Stains. Given her personal interest in costume design and history, several of her own garments have been gifted to Te Papa.

Since her retirement Valerie has been able to share her interest in global textiles and love of travel by leading “textile tours” particularly in India and areas around the Silk Road. She is a member of the Eastbourne Chapter of Rotary and the Academy of Fine Arts Wellington. Valerie has been a long time supporter of the Marsden community both as past parent and active member of the Old Girls’ Association. She was the 
co-convenor of the Old Girls’ centenary Art exhibition and served on the Old Girls’ committee for several years. In her profession as a conservator she has advised on the preservation of the textiles in the school’s archives.

“As a school dental nurse you are conserving teeth, restoring them in fine detail and that’s basically what you are doing as a textile conservator”.