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36 The Post • Kingsbridge at Work


Holly Trubshawe


Curatorial Assistant Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum


What is your role at the museum? I’m a Curatorial Assistant, employed to assist the William Cookworthy Society in carrying out their aims to keep a historical record of the town and to educate people about the museum. Day to day I manage volunteers; deal with enquiries; outreach work with local history groups and schools etc; apply for grant fundraising; and curate displays with support from volunteers. Including a board of trustees, we have 70 volunteers who look after the re- source room; steward the public; keep rust away from the farming equipment; and perform curatorial work including scanning photos and sorting displays. It’s amazing the amount of work the volunteers do. I’ve been here for over four years now and can honestly say I love my job and am so enthusiastic about it. What happens when the museum shuts for the winter? People think I go on holiday for six months but far from it! When the museum is open I’m in five out of the six open days, dealing with enquiries from the public and managing volunteers. During winter we prepare our exhi- bitions and give them a good spring clean. We tidy up displays, sort objects and projects to do with the collections. Some of this work is ongoing but we tend to step it up through the winter. We do outreach work in the community and have groups, including schools, visiting us throughout the winter. We also lend out “handling boxes” to schools and organisations. We have a Victorian handling box full of photos and objects, including a cup and ball game, and a toys box with a range of historical toys from a 1850s clockwork robin to modern plastic toys.


What happens in the resource section of the museum? We’re an access point for the Devon Archive and Local Studies based in Exeter and our resources are open and accessible all year round. We make our records as useful as pos- sible, including archiving newspapers by hand. We have a full collection of local newspapers from 1855 on microfilm. Everything is here, including very knowledgeable volunteers who are ready and eager to help people in their research into family history. People are generally becoming more interested in ancestry. They can do a lot of research online and through census records but we can help them flesh it out and provide details from newspapers etc. We have a lot of local people coming in researching their families and also people from across the UK, New Zealand, Australia and America. When farming and mining industries were declining locally in the early 20th century some people looked to make fame and fortune on the other side of the world. It’s great to meet some of their descendants returning to trace their ancestry. How did you become a museum curator? This is my first full-time paid museum role and I’ve always been fascinated by history. Before I came here I was volunteering in a range of museums in Bristol, where I grew up. I graduated with a History and Archaeology Degree followed by an MA in Museum Studies at Leicester University. Like most people in this sector I love what they do – I meet wonderful people and get to work in a wonderful museum. Competition for work is quite high, we don’t do it for


the money but for the joy of it. I’m also a volunteer social historian and trustee for a social history cura- tors group, as I love learning about history through people’s stories. Is it true you live in the museum? Not technically in the museum but I do live on site with my fiancé. I only have to go downstairs to work, but make a rule that I don’t take work upstairs. It’s an old building that creaks a bit at night but that doesn’t really bother me. We’ve had ghost hunters visit here before! What brings people to the museum? Visitors enjoy the local aspect to the farming machinery; the old grammar school, which was originally on this site; scullery and kitchen; and rotating displays, including the World War I exhibition at the moment. A lot of history is taught through dates and kings and queens. I feel it’s a lot more interesting if it’s relateable. History is all about people and their stories. Visitors love our fun facts around the museum. My favourite is from the 1930s grammar school days when, before every sports day, all the kids had to go around picking up the sheep poo! What’s in store for next season? We reopen on March 26 with an exhibition on Margaret Lorenz, the first female head of a comprehensive school (Kingsbridge School) in Dev- on, from 1969 to1987. Margaret was also a founder member of the muse- um society management committee, served as museum chairman, and was made honorary president of the museum in 2012. She died in October 2014 after a full and fascinating life. For more information on the museum visit www.kingsbridgemuseum.org.uk


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