MEET: Nicole B Hoffmann, Museum Officer at the University of Pretoria Museums: Hatfield Campus

Posted on September 27, 2019


  1. Who is Nicole Hoffmann?

I am 32 years old, South African-born and German-speaking. I went to the German school in Pretoria, which is now called the “Deutsche Internationale Schule Pretoria”. From there I made my way to the University of Pretoria and I have been with the University of Pretoria Museums since April 2017. However, I have been part of UP since my undergraduate studies, from where I went on to tutor and to lecture in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology and in the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies. I am an academic, who has studied Heritage and Cultural Tourism here at UP, and I am an archaeologist. Tourism and archaeology have given me the background needed to perform this job, as well as my professional qualification as a tourist guide. Being the Museum Officer includes representing the University as the public face of the UP Museums.

  1. Tell us about your job here at UP?

As the Museum Officer, I offer educational and interpretative tours to visitors such as students, staff, school groups, international and domestic tourists, academic and embassy delegations, senior citizens and disabled visitors. I divulge information about the collections of the University, especially about the Mapungubwe collection, which is one of over 56 collections that University of Pretoria Museums manage. I assist with background tasks as well, supporting colleagues where I am needed. I represent the University and the heritage and art collections of the University by interpreting them to the public and I act as the face of UP Museums. My colleagues and I are also in charge of all the public sculptures around the University – for this purpose we have developed a sculpture route on Hatfield campus. We are also in charge of all the artworks hanging in different UP offices and hallways.

  1. What do you enjoy most about your job and why?

I love meeting different people and different personalities, no tour is ever exactly the same. It is always challenging. With school groups, one has to think of the educational level the learners are at and how to put information in a way that is understandable and relatable to them. I need to consider how to engage them to have fun, while interacting with and explaining the different displays and keeping them enthusiastic enough to ask questions. In addition, knowing my visitors’ background information prior to their arrival makes it easier for me to customise their tours according to their diverse interests.

  1. What is your least favourite part about your job?

There is a lot of admin. The challenge is that I only work 25 hours a week, meaning that my interpretative tours are the most important part of my work. I do not have so much time for admin. However, it is a necessary and essential part of the job, especially when responding to email questions or telephone calls about the UP Museums, when planning an upcoming tour or when arranging access for visitors. 

  1. Who is your favourite artist?  

This is difficult to say, as there are so many wonderful artists. Challenging as it is, Salvador Dali is one of my favourite international artists, simply because I do not like the usual things that everyone wants to see in paintings. With regard to South African sculptors, I would state artists such as Stanley Nkosi, Anton van Wouw or Lwandiso Njara, as all of their artworks are very powerful and evocative of emotion. 

  1. What would be your top suggestion for making UP an even better place to work?

As an employee working on an annual contract basis, personally I would appreciate a permanent employment or at least a 40-hour workweek. The University is doing a lot to support its staff and students, UP is very good employer.

  1. If you were not a Museum Officer, what else would you have liked to be?

I would have loved to work for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), maybe that will still materialise. UNESCO does so much, considering the international heritage policy and legislation frameworks they have been instrumental in and with regard to the World Heritage List. However, at the moment I am happy at UP.    

  1. Tell us about who Nicole is away from work?

I am involved in a lot of things and I feel like the day does not have enough hours. Next to work, I am currently pursuing my PhD in Biblical Archaeology.  Furthermore, I enjoy reading, creative writing, hiking, swimming, Pilates, embroidery, baking and listening to metal music.

  1. What are your goals for next five years?

My next goal is to finish my doctorate degree in less than five years. I plan to make a name for myself as an academic, especially in the field of combating the looting and destruction of the archaeological sites in the light of all the turbulence going on in the Middle and Near East and all over the world. Considering that this is an international problem, which is happening in South African as well - similar to the poaching of rhino horns and elephant ivory, I would like to find a solution to this.  

  1. Is there a favourite piece of advice you have received in life that you would like to share with our colleagues?

If life beats you down, get up on your feet and keep on walking. You may experience many situations that put you down in life, but it is important to get up and set an example for others. We need role models in our country.

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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