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MGC 1970 Leaver

I remember my first Chemistry lesson at MGC to this day. I was addicted from the start. Like so many of the science teachers, Dr Hetty Bardsley was married to a scientist working at the Royal Radar Establishment. We were exceptionally lucky to be taught by a cohort of inspirational women scientists, very unusual in girls’ schools in the 1960s. I also loved art and was bitterly disappointed not being able to do Art A Level alongside Maths, Physics and Chemistry because it wouldn't fit in the timetable.

I went to St Hilda's College, Oxford to read Chemistry but I still hankered after combining art with science. A friend told me that some of the London museums had scientific laboratories. I made an appointment at the Science Museum and asked their advice. They directed me to the National Gallery Scientific Department where I met Garry Thomson, Scientific Adviser, who suggested that I studied paintings conservation at the Courtauld Institute of Art. A perfect combination of art and science. After receiving the three year postgraduate diploma and beginning a PhD on colour measurement of paintings, a vacancy was advertised in the National Gallery Scientific Department where I worked for five years on preventive conservation of museum collections.  

In 1985 I moved to the National Trust to advise on paintings conservation and preventive conservation in historic buildings. Over the next thirty years I was promoted to Head Conservator, Historic Properties Director, and Museums and Collections Director, broadening my portfolio to include archaeology, historic buildings, gardens and parks. Five years ago I left the National Trust to take on a number of governance roles including Trustee of the new English Heritage Trust and the Landmark Trust, President of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and become a member of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West Committee. In the most delightful piece of circular fortune, I was recently appointed a Trustee of the Science Museum Group, the very organisation who gave me that great piece of advice nearly forty years earlier that set me off on my career in heritage conservation.

What does success look like?

A career not a job. Work that challenges you and gives you the opportunity to learn every day.  

What is your best piece of advice?

Find a mentor. It is unlikely to be the same person throughout your career. You will have different ambitions at different times and you need to find the inspirational person who can help you develop.

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