Who and why?

Over the coming months I’ll rambling away here about a variety of stuff but mostly my life in museums, exhibitions I’ve been to and my take on issues that affect the heritage and museums sector. The great world of the internet means I can chunter away here to my heart’s content. However, it seems polite to give you a bit more detail about who I am and what I do instead of expecting anyone to read this cold.

As you might expect, seeing as this isn’t a blog about cricket or cupcakes, museums have been my career for 17 years and my passion for even longer. I started early, doing my school work experience at Tunbridge Wells Museum. It was there in the mid-80s that I saw an exhibition of Matisse drawings which made me realise the big museums in London weren’t the only place to see cool stuff.

After doing a Classics degree in Liverpool (and enjoying a city with so much to offer) I knew that I hadn’t been wrong at 16 and that museums were where I wanted to be. After Leicester I found myself living in Nottinghamshire in the small town of Mansfield. Frankly, I didn’t like Mansfield, but it had the saving grace of a great museum run by a young and inspirational Curator called Liz Weston. Liz taught me huge amounts about museums and the real world which no training course ever could and she let me make mistakes (and no, enough time has not passed to own up to most of them!)


Mansfield Museum

Jobs followed in Watford and the London Borough of Brent where we took the museum from the Grange in the middle of a three lane roundabout to Willesden Library Centre. You don’t get to be part of a brand new museum many times in a career and the Brent Museum was the best, most fun, most terrifying and worst time of my life! After 4 years of hard but great teamwork we created a museum I am still very proud of (even if the display case in Politics was rather traditional in the end).

brent mus

The entrance gallery, Brent Museum

After a spell as Collections Manager at the magnificent Historic Dockyard at Chatham in Kent, I came to Wiltshire 2 years ago to become Conservation and Heritage Manager looking after the Museums Advisory Service, three teams of Conservators and the County Archaeology team. Here we work very much with small, independent museums, many of which are volunteer run. This has been a new experience for me and both challenging for someone used to taking certain shared norms in professional museums but also very good for challenging my assumptions and learning new ideas .

Wherever I am, my passion has always been for sharing histories. Our museums, large and small are uniquely placed to share experiences, objects and knowledge in a way that no other organisation can. They are unique and special and, in case I get too pompous, they’re also great fun. New media are giving us new ways of spreading that fun on what seems like a daily basis so who knows where we’ll be in a few years. New opportunities meeting a recession of the like I’ve never seen in my career means we live in interesting times.

There you go. That’s me. So, please, come with me. Feel free to comment and especially if you agree with every word! If you want daily utterances I’m on Twitter http://twitter.com/vickybarlo Back soon…


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