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The spice of life

28 Feb 2018

Hello, I’m Tom Hodgson, the Colchester Museums Manager. I lead the team in Colchester.

I’ve been here for over 23 years, but not in the same job, thank goodness! I started in 1994 as the Curator of Social History, becoming Community History Manager when we merged with Ipswich Museums in 2007. In 2011 I moved to Project Manager for the HLF funded £4.2m redevelopment of Colchester Castle and in 2014 was appointed to my current post.

Budget management is now a major part of my role. I did well at O level maths, having a head for figures, which is helpful as I work with financial matters on a daily basis, using a system called My Budget. As central Government tightens the purse strings for Local Authorities, the income we earn, especially in the Castle, has become increasingly important to make the Council funding go further. We now have a commercial team and I am on a sharp learning curve in matters of marketing. We need the Castle to keep blooming!

One of the strengths of a Local Authority museum is that you have not just your museum colleagues to rely on, there is a wide range of skilled people across the whole Council. This means I can call in expertise when I need it. Delegating tasks is also important, freeing up time for items that need me and empowering my team to make decisions. Delegation can play to people’s strengths or nurture new skills in them.

We have recently moved into new build offices at our main stores. The move from our old resource centre was a major project for me last year. The final stage completed last week with the total clearance of our old building and its hand-over to the Estates team for sale. It has been strange to wander round an echoing empty building in which I had worked for so many years.

As my role has become more managerial I have moved further away from the museum collections that were the focus of my work when I started. However, a little window to the past has opened at the moment.

I am preparing a small exhibition on World War I to coincide with the centenary of the end of what was then known as the Great War. I planned the exhibition with our Senior Curator, Glynn, and established three main themes: Life on the Home Front; Local people on Active Service; 1918 and the aftermath. In researching what we have in our collections I recognised many items that I knew of old, but others are surprises, such as the Zepp Charm. Another find has been the photograph of three women munition workers taken in an unknown photographic studio, almost certainly in Colchester. The women could very well have worked at Paxmans which converted to manufacturing artillery shells during the War.

My job is always full of variety, which is just the way I like it!

 

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