York Museums Trust

Behind the Scenes: Running a Museum

Expert Talks

We challenged our expert Curators to summarise parts of our history in one minute! The result is family friendly bite size information, like ‘Roman Emperors in York’ and ‘Faith in Anglican York’.

See an example below! We’ll be releasing the videos weekly on our Youtube channel! See the full list here.


Who’s in the Museum?!

What roles go into running a museum? We asked staff from all departments to summarise parts of their role to help give you an understanding of the wide experiences, tasks and opportunities involved in running a museum.

Describe a typical day in your job

Sarah Mortimer, Creative Producer Formal Learning – “I don’t have a typical day! I prepare resources, check that the LFs are ok, check workshops are running smoothly and was working on teacher consultation and working out the future of our work with schools”.

Irene Altares Lerma, Visitor Experience Team Member – “My day starts with our team meeting in which we discuss the daily rota and any special events happening that day. I usually have my time spread out between galleries and tills, with a short break for tea and a longer one for lunch. On busy days I engage with a number of visitors; on quieter days I can learn a bit more about the collections by reading the information in each gallery. The day finishes by cashing up and locking up all the galleries before leaving the museum until the next day.”

Emily Tilley, Curatorial Assistant – There is no typical day in my job! Curators often say that every day is different, and that’s completely true. In my role I give university lectures and seminars, operate a fork lift stacker, organise conferences, coordinate volunteer projects, design temporary displays, provide research access to the collections, carry out my own collections research, train and supervise placement students, monitor the environmental conditions in the museum, courier objects on museum loans, install and deinstall exhibitions, create social media content, give radio interviews, drive vans, fill skips, attend finds identification training, and an endless variety of all the tasks in between!

What you love most about your job?

Rebecca Griffiths, Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer for North and East Yorkshire. – “My role as Finds Liaison Officer at the Yorkshire Museum allows me spend every day working with some amazing archaeological material. I am frequently faced with new and exciting objects and challenges. By recording finds made by members of the public on to the Portable Antiquities Scheme database I am privileged to play a small part in continuing to advance our knowledge of the history and archaeology of England and Wales.”

Maresa Bailey, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Assistant– I love being able to troubleshoot and problem solve. I also love not being restricted by the boundaries of a job title and being able to work for the greater good of the organisation. I find myself very lucky to have such wonderful people to work with who share my enthusiasm and values to make YMT a successful, dynamic, adaptable, customer driven, socially aware organisation that wants to educate, entertain, challenge and engage a wide range of audiences throughout the world while being trusted as the caretaker of some amazing art and history.”

Robert Wake, Curatorial Assistant – “Working hands-on with objects behind the scenes, providing access for others to engage with YMT’s amazing collections – I learn something new every day.”

What is the strangest thing that you have to do / have encountered in your job?

Laura Chapman, Volunteer Training Assistant – I had a spooky encounter! When I used to open the castle as a Team Leader I had my name shouted to me in clear male voice across the ‘Shaping the Body’ gallery, no one else was in the building at all. Wore headphones after that!

Rania Zein-Elabdin, Assistant Visitor Experience Manager – Probably cleaning up a pair of socks on gallery that were thrown up by a seeing support dog. When I asked the owner if the dog was okay and told them what I had found, they said, ‘I wondered where those socks went!’ (The dog was fine!)

Laura Turner, Exhibition Programming Officer – “I remember receiving a ‘call to say that a bird had got into a building (York St Mary’s) and had flown through the delicate installation of 1000 glass bells suspended from the ceiling, causing havoc! The install had taken months of planning and a couple of weeks of painstaking installation! Thankfully the bird escaped unharmed and only a few bells had been broken but it took quite a lot of untangling!”

Do you think museums are important? If so, why?

Jacqueline Chiplin, HR Adviser – “Museums tell us about who we were, make us think about who we are and give us insight into who we could be”.

Connie Berridge, Visitor Experience Team Leader – “Definitely important! They care for culture and tell stories that may otherwise not be heard. So long as museums keep adapting to changing times they will always be important in highlighting the past and the present.”

Denise Hamilton, Assistant Manager – “Absolutely. They are a physical record of our past, whether that be a decade ago or millions of years ago, and we can learn so much from what we see and experience in the displays or presentations.”

Tell us about how you came to work for York Museums Trust?

M Faye Prior, Assistant Curator – “I was a volunteer many years ago, and came to love the museum and collections, and always wanted to work with the Castle Museum’s costume and textiles. I worked in other museums and heritage jobs, which gave me the skills and experience to apply when a job came up.”

Timothy Asberywood, Chief Accountant – “I was looking for a finance position closer to home after leaving university, this position was advertised and not only was it closer but it was also for an organisation that was focused on my love of History”.

Stuart Castle, Visitor experience team member – “Through being a volunteer at the Military Museum, then became a volunteer at the Castle Museum.”

Hannah Savage, Visitor Experience Team Member – “Having moved house to York, following a degree in Fine Art and an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies, I applied to YMT and was successful in being offered a permanent Front of House role at the Yorkshire Museum.”