Museum Studies at Leicester

Joe Carr: Music and education on the East Coast

I have many wonderful memories of my year at the Department of Museum Studies which began back in September 2001. The department was then located in the lovely Princess Road East buildings. I must admit we had a magnificent group of students, a wonderful mix of experience, passion and fun. As well as enjoying the outstanding course, our year had an active social organiser, numerous legendary house parties (mainly thanks to Jana Manuelpillai of The Noble Sage Gallery) and we even fielded a Museum Studies 5-a-side football team! I am delighted that so many of the people in that year have carved out glittering careers in the museum (or similar) sectors.

After leaving Leicester I was lucky enough to get my first museum job at Norfolk Museum Service. I worked for Great Yarmouth Museums, on the HLF funded project to develop Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. I was fortunate to work with Sheila Watson, and a brilliant Yarmouth team. The result was a multi-award winning museum that we all were extremely proud of. I became Assistant Curator and later Curator at Great Yarmouth.

However, the bright lights of London beckoned and I took the difficult decision to leave Great Yarmouth and headed to Brent Museum as the Curator. This was a challenging but very rewarding experience, as working in one of the most diverse communities in the UK opened my eyes to the importance of community engagement, contemporary collecting and ensuring our stories and collections are accessible to all. I was lucky enough to work on a number of fascinating projects;  such as, Reassessing What We Collect- working with Polish and Brazilian communities; and the pilot of the National: Regional Loans scheme, which resulted the first ever loan of the Gayer Anderson Cat out of the British Museum.

After 4 years at Brent Museum I headed east once again and began to work at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village in Suffolk. This was my first purely education role, leading and developing the schools and families offer at this unique archaeological site. I was managing over 120 school children visiting every day of the year, and I am proud to have really developed the education experience they received. The sessions were nominated for a national Best School Trip Award in 2016.

However, from April 2017 I have begun a new role as Curator of Collections and Learning at The Red House in Aldeburgh (Britten-Pears Foundation). This is a truly unique and beautiful site linked to the world famous composer Benjamin Britten. It includes his house, his composition studio, his extensive library, a beautiful museum space, as well as over 5 acres of stunning gardens. My role is to bring the stories and collections to life, managing the collections and developing a new learning offer to engage with schools, families and young people. I have always been fascinated by how music can engage and inspire all ages, so the opportunity to use music, history, collections and heritage to inspire future generations is very exciting. I am currently developing a range of new KS1, 2 and 3 school sessions, leading a 0-5 Toddler music session (complete with guitar), developing externally funded projects with High School Students, creating family activities and resources and exploring how to enhance the use of the collections. We have also just been nominated for the Suffolk Museums of the Year Family Friendly Award. This is thanks to a wonderful summer where we have seen families and young people enjoying Benjamin Britten’s beautiful garden and learning about his life and music. It has been heart-warming to see the genuine enthusiasm and energy as families, many inter-generational, have enjoyed croquet, tennis, musical instruments and much more.

It is a very exciting time to be working at the Red House and I look forward to welcoming the new wave of Leicester Museum Studies students for placements!

Joe Carr, Curator of Collections and Learning
Museum Studies Class of 2002

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