Antonia Grant, Community Development and Project Officer at St. Paul’s Church Deptford, takes five minutes to answer our questions…
Describe your career path
Over the past seven years I have worked as both a freelancer and in full-time employment within the museum and heritage sector. I was lucky in that my first job came through an internship as part of a Museum and Gallery related Masters course. This was in the curatorial department at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland. After completing the internship I was offered a position in the learning department, which I held for almost four years, while also building up other experience at Edinburgh University’s Museum Collections. I believe this experience provided the skills and insight required for working as a freelancer, which requires flexibility and adaptability.
I have enjoyed working in a diverse and wide range of positions and organisations. After working in Edinburgh, I moved to London to gain more UK-wide experience. I worked as the Learning and Events Officer at Handel House Museum where I was involved in assisting with the Heritage Lottery Bid for the Jimi Hendrix flat; following this I landed what I would consider as the highlight of my career so far, which was a project to redesign and re-curate London Borough of Brent Museum. The social history museum opened in Willesden Green Library in July of this year and came after two years of much research, planning and project management.
What have the next 12 months got in store for you?
While I generally find it tricky to plan ahead within this sector, I generally take the approach to consistently develop my knowledge and CPD skills in connection with each project I am focused on. At present I am involved in assisting to conserve and protect St. Paul’s Church, a Baroque Grade I listed building in Deptford. This requires specific knowledge of building management and conservation approaches. I have therefore started a part-time PG Diploma course at Bath University, which is focused on historic building conservation.
What Museum would you like to be locked in overnight?
I think I would be very happy to be locked in (for life!) to The Wallace Collection. Not only is the collection one of my favourites from: historic armour; to exquisite eighteenth century portraiture; and the luscious interiors of this town house. It is also one of those rare museums in London that you can truly retreat from the maddening crowd and indulge in the surroundings. Otherwise, another museum that had me in total awe was at Edinburgh University’s Anatomical Museum. I think that getting locked in at night would be both riveting and terrifying!
What’s the most encouraging thing a visitor has ever said to you?
I think one of the most encouraging and incredible visitor reactions I have witnessed was in connection to Brent Museum. After so much project planning and mind numbing excel spreadsheets, meetings and general planning mania, to witness the completion of this project was truly one of the most wonderful career experiences to date.
My first sense of joy came through watching the visitor’s reactions to some of the interactives and displays. I remember seeing one child as she eagerly opened some of the interactive drawers, displaying costumes from a local haberdashers shop and how excited she was to see ‘old fashioned underwear’! I think we are all prone to getting immersed in a project, that sometimes we forget to take a step back and really witness the fruits of our labour and rewards to working in this sector.
If you could highlight one Museum Object, either in your own museum or elsewhere, what would it be?
I find historic musical instruments fascinating in terms of the beauty, craftsmanship and as objects of material culture. Having worked at Edinburgh University’s Musical Instrument Collection, I would say that my favourite object was a Double-Manual harpsichord, made by Andreas Ruckers dated 1608. Not only is the instrument a beautiful example of this famous harpsichord maker’s talent, it is also in a playable condition for music students at the University. I think the visual, tactile and audible elements connected to this object are a fantastic way to engage and excite visitors. I also love the story connected with the painted soundboard on the instrument, which links to Queen Christina of Sweden, who was a great patron of music and the arts.
What would you have been if you hadn’t been a Community Development and Project Officer?
The only other career I considered other then going into the museum and heritage sector, was music and music therapy. Having studied piano I thought that this would be a lovely way to connect my music education. Otherwise, my career has been a very natural organic process and I am very pleased to be working in this sector.