HOW did you become a museum curator?
WHEN I finished religious studies at university, I did not have a job and I saw an advertisement for a voluntary job in the Lake District, helping at a museum, which came with accommodation. It seemed perfect, so I applied and I got it. I quickly realised it was something I really loved.
I then worked for Richmondshire District Council as a museums officer, where I worked with all the small, independent museums in Richmondshire, including the Bedale Museum, The World of James Herriot and, of course, The Green Howards Museum.
I advised them all in a consultant role, and when the director/curator job came up, I decided to apply as I thought it was a good opportunity to move from an advisory role back into practical management.
I think my degree does help – religious studies is all about personal motivation and the personal interests people have, so it relates well to my work.
WHAT do you do in a typical day?
IT is a very small team – we have two full-time and two part-time members of staff, as well as about 25 volunteers, so it is very busy.
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It is a mix of curating and directing, so I work on the collections and help to get exhibitions ready, as well as doing the financial side and making sure everyone who comes in has a good time.
Everyone pitches in and it can be very unglamorous.
People think you’re sitting at a desk, polishing artifacts and reading, but I found a huge splodge of blue paint on one of my dresses the other day, which I think was a result of preparing one of the exhibitions. More often than not, you will need to climb under tables to check wires.
You have to do all kinds of things.
IS there anything in the pipeline for the museum at the moment?
WE have applied for a £1.5m Lottery grant to transform the museum.
It is incredibly exciting. If we are successful, we will be able to take out all the displays and put in new exhibitions to bring it all up to date. We will put in some interactive displays as well.
The museum has not changed much since 1973, so it is in need of freshening up.
The actual building we are in, which is a church and a tower, is really interesting.
At the moment, all our focus is on the military history, and there is nothing about the building itself.
With the new design, we will be able to tell visitors about the history of the building.
It has been used for all sorts. At one point, there were two families living in the bell tower, which is incredible to think of. It was a prison during the border wars, and there were shops in the bottom at one point.
WHY is the museum so important?
AS well as telling the history of the regiment, it is about getting people to understand the state of mind of soldiers – what it takes to be a Green Howard and the qualities you need, and the kind of life a soldier leads.
I think a Green Howard needs great tenacity and great courage, and they also have a wonderful sense of family. We have former soldiers who each year come back from Canada to be with the friends they served with.
That sense of comradeship, of family, is really, really important.
WHAT’S the best part of the job?
I LOVE the fact I get to handle all these amazing objects.
I also love that we get relatives and descendants of soldiers coming into the museum and help them find out about what their relative did. It is a big part of our role.
We probably do that every day and it is really very rewarding.
WHAT is your favourite object in the museum?
IT is a Russian great coat from the Crimean War. It is the most fantastic object – so heavy and warm. That is why one of the Green Howard soldiers took it from the battlefields and wore it.
More recently, there are grenade launchers taken from Taliban fighters in Afghanistan during the ongoing campaign.
We regularly get relatives and soldiers turning up with artifacts, and I also send requests to the Green Howards before they go on a tour of duty, for example, I asked them if they could bring back some traditional Afghan dress last time.
I also like some of the artifacts we have from a gentleman called the Reverend Ridley. He was a padre for the Green Howards during the Second World War when they were fighting the Battle of Monte Cassino, in Italy, in 1944.
It was an Allied victory, but a very costly one. He would have experienced exactly the same things as the other soldiers, and it would have been his role to help them cope psychologically and spiritually during what must have been a very difficult, very scary time.
We have his communion cup and some of his other personal possessions, and I just think it is amazing to have these things.