Caroline Worthington, LMG’s new chair and Chief Executive of Bexley Heritage Trust, takes five minutes to answer our questions…
Describe your career path
I started my career at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter as curator of art. I’ve retained my affection for the city and am now an ardent Exeter City football fan !
After five years in Exeter, I moved to the other end of the country – Newcastle – to work at the Laing Art Gallery, before a move to York Museums Trust.
Working with Janet Barnes was an inspiring experience. I was given the freedom to juxtapose the historic art collection with new, contemporary work commissioning pieces such as Flock by Susie MacMurray – a site specific installation of thousands of hand dyed turkey feathers to frame a painting by Frans Snyders called A Game Stall – and Flood by Susan Stockwell for York St Mary’s (a 14th century chapel). Flood was an 8 meter cascade constructed from 4 tonnes of discarded power supplies.
During my five years at York, I took part in the Clore Leadership Programme and realised I wanted to step up and run a museum or gallery. I found myself back home in London as director of the Florence Nightingale Museum in 2008. With the centenary of Nightingale’s death on the horizon we set about raising £1million to transform the museum in time. The Royal opening coincided with 2010’s general election and a hung Parliament. I can remember the helicopters buzzing overhead as our guests arrived for the private view (the Nightingale Museum is opposite the Houses of Parliament).
Since 2011 I have been chief executive of Bexley Heritage Trust.
What have the next 12 months got in store for you
As the new chair of the London Museums Group I am thinking about how the LMG can support individuals working in museums and enjoying conversations with ACE and the MDO team on that.
I also want to make the LMG more visible right across London, starting with our new and regular slot in Monday’s e-update.
What Museum (other than the one you might work for) would you like to be locked in overnight
I’ve just come back from a week in New York and visited the wonderful Morgan Library & Archive for the first time. I’d happily spend the night exploring its exhibitions and collections.
What’s the most encouraging thing a visitor/user has ever said to you
“Of course I expect to pay to visit this wonderful house”.
If you could highlight one Museum Object, either in your own museum or elsewhere, what would it be
Conservative Party Conference, 1982 by Paul Brason at the National Portrait Gallery which will no doubt surprise and horrify some people. I won a competition run by the NPG in association with the BP Portrait Award in the spring of 1990. The prize was a portrait painted by the artist of your choice and I chose Paul. I sat for him over the summer just before I went to university to study the history of art. My portrait even hung in the gallery for a short time. I was also lucky enough to pick up a job in the NPG bookshop – something that I returned to each holiday during my studies.
What would you have been if you hadn’t been a museum director/conservator etc etc.
A theatre critic. I had places on post-graduate courses in Manchester for museum studies and London for theatre criticism but plumped for the former following a conversation with my tutor at UEA who suggested that there might be more chance of a career in museums !