Photographer Fiona Pardington hopes receiving a prestigious French honour will make it easier to gain access to the Byzantine French museum system for future work.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in New Zealand for an official visit, will name Pardington a Knight (Chevalier) in the Order of Arts and Letters in a ceremony at Auckland War Memorial Museum today.
She understood the award was for work she did while completing an artist's residency in France in 2010, she said.
That included a series of photographs, called The Pressure of Sunlight Falling, of anthropological plaster casts created by one of the expedition members on board Dumont d'Urville's voyage through the Pacific in the 19th century.
Receiving the honour was a complete shock, Pardington said.
"I thought, oh my god - well, I actually thought some swear words, but I didn't say it because it wouldn't have been that polite."
Getting access to museum archives and exhibits during her French residency had been difficult, as they were often jealously guarded by their curators, she said.
The honour would hopefully make gaining that access easier in the future.
"That's the first thing I thought. It was just like all my Christmases came at once... This could be my golden ticket, because they are almost impenetrable unless you have someone ushering you in."
A retrospective of Pardington's work - including several photographs from her time in France - is on display at the Auckland Art Gallery until 19 June.