New beginnings

I haven’t updated this blog for over a year – very remiss of me.

At the end of last year I left the Museum of East Anglian Life after nine fantastic and exhilarating years to take up a new challenge. I joined Derby Museums Trust in January as its Executive Director, swapping the open air for a fascinating set of museums situated in a city renowned for invention and manufacturing.

Derby Museums Trust was established in late 2012 and is one of a number of former local authority run museum services in the UK, whose management has transferred to an independent charitable trust. Trust status has also been adopted by other cities such as Birmingham and Sheffield. All these former publicly governed organisations are working to behave more entrepreneurially, to diversify their income streams, to spread risk and to, hopefully, become more financially resilient.

It remains to be seen whether museums like the ones in Derby will have the breathing space to develop new sources of income to replace public funding quickly enough before the full impact of cuts are felt during 2015-18.

Derby Museums has some fantastic assets. Appropriately it has the largest collection of works by the artist of the British Enlightenment, Joseph Wright of Derby. It is Designated as a collection of outstanding National importance. Wright’s work, whether showing philosophers lecturing on the wonders of the Universe or depicting the early days of industrialisation, represents a spirit of experimentation and curiosity with which Derby Museums and the city itself would like to be associated. This is borne out in the exciting Re:Make project we have embarked upon at Derby Silk Mill on the site of the world’s first factory. Here we aim to redevelop the former industrial museum with groups of makers, artists and members of the public. Their collective knowledge and talents will be used to co-produce a new museum.

In addition Derby Museum also runs a gem of social history museum, Pickford’s House, the home of Joseph Pickford a Derby architect who lived there in the 18th century. This museum has great potential to explore the notion of home to a changing and diverse community in the city.

Although I’ve swapped the country for the city, growing for making, I aim to adopt many of the values developed through my previous work in Suffolk and through the Happy Museum project. I believe the best museum is a place of encounters. Somewhere people can be active and be creative, form new friendships and look at the world differently. Derby Museums will show the best of these qualities.

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