Early mornings as a Duty Officer

23 Oct 2017

Hi, my name is Christian and I’m a Duty Officer for Colchester Museums. It’s my job to keep everything behind the scenes running smoothly; from getting schoolchildren to roar like a Celtic army to ensuring that our wonderful collections stay safe and even making sure the museum staff get to their lunches on time!

It’s a busy role where there’s always a challenge around the corner. The experience of our visitors is a top priority and with so much to offer, the museums in Colchester have to be in the best shape to show off the town’s incredible history. But even before we open the museum, life is busy…



My day begins at the beginning, with coffee. A burst of espresso is just enough to see me wander through the dew-dusted morning park and fumble with my bunch of keys. It’s an experience I probably take for granted, opening the grand door to a Norman Keep, thousands of years of history basking beneath the glass inside. The blare of the security system is the call of an alarm clock to my day. Soon hundreds of schoolchildren will pour through our doors, expectant eyes hungry to dress up as heroic knights and explore rooms filled with secret adventure, a whole imagination of possibilities. Other visitors won’t be far behind; Roman Armies, Witch Trials and rediscovered gold draws them to the museum.


School sessions


Honed from years of practice, we prepare the Castle with what at times feels like military precision. Practised eyes remove the slightest blemishes from the glass cases, money is carefully counted and computers whir to attention.

I look to my team, excited to start their day. Some prepare trolleys for schoolchildren’s lunches or rehearse, with theatrical enthusiasm, the tales they will tell in the Roman Vaults, whilst others fill the shop with gifts from trinkets to treasures. I plan the day ahead, letting them know their roles for the day, the tasks we must complete and (what seems almost as important as for the schoolchildren) what time their lunch will be.


Gifts in the Castle shop


Being a Duty Officer begins before the museum doors are even open to the public. There is planning, preparation and organisation. But it’s also a role for problem-solving, thinking on your feet and improvising with situations as they develop. It’s when the doors open, and the excited clamour rings around our ears, that the real challenges begin and the museum comes to life once again.


Where will your adventure start?