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Sue, Operations Manager, Furniture, Textiles and Fashion


Sue, Operations Manager, Furniture, Textiles and Fashion

Sue, Operations Manager, Furniture, Textiles and Fashion.
©V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum,London

I joined the V&A as Operations Officer in the Department of Textiles & Dress in 2001. I knew the Museum was in the process of a major refurbishment programme, which would offer enormous scope for career development. Initially I had responsibility for the day to day management of the textile and dress collection, its stores, galleries and loans programme, as well as displays. However, my role expanded when we were reorganised into the new Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion.

I am now a member of the senior management team in the Department, and have a much more strategic role, focusing on short and long term planning. Operations and project management are my areas of expertise but I really needed a new challenge and so in 2002 I took responsibility for the contemporary textile collection. I love working with artists, designers and makers - and building up the collection. For me its extremely important that the collection continues to have relevance for future generations, we're not a static collection but one which continues to inspire people working in the creative industries. One of the most rewarding projects I've worked on has been the 'Concealed-Discovered-Revealed' display by Sue Lawty in Gallery 101. Sue worked closely with the historic textile collection to create a new piece of work - one which is firmly rooted in traditional practice but created with a contemporary eye.

I'm a frantic multi-tasker - you have to be in my job, no one day is ever the same! We have over 80,000 objects in the collection, ranging from small fragments of Coptic textiles, to large 15th century tapestries to haute couture dress by Dior and Vivienne Westwood. I can start off answering enquiries from the public about the collection, then conduct a 'behind the scenes' tour in one of the stores. I may need to assess the suitability of an object for loan or exhibition or attend a project meeting regarding the impact of building work for the new Medieval & Renaissance Galleries. I've installed displays such as 'Men in Skirts' and 'Catherine Walker', worked on Fashion in Motion events including Jean Paul Gaultier and Swarovski and have travelled extensively on courier trips to the States, Japan, Australia and Europe.

In 2004 I became the lead curator for the major quilt exhibition in 2010, which showcased the V&A's amazing historic quilt collection. Being in such close proximity to an object, undertaking research into its origins, its materials and technique is one of the most rewarding parts of my day. I lectured to the quilting group in Wandsworth Prison about the exhibition and the collection, it can be difficult trying to find time to write lectures and articles but again, disseminating information about the collection is a key task for any curator, be it in publications or as part of our Collections on Line activity. A large part of my day is also taken up with HR issues - training and development of junior staff is very important to me and the V&A has a fantastic training programme. In 2005 I attended a 'Leaders in London' conference and had the pleasure of meeting Mikael Gobachev and Madeleine Albright - both completely inspirational speakers and excellent role models.

The V&A has always been my local museum, so I sometimes forget it has an international profile! As a child I always wanted to walk through the doors marked 'Staff Only' and it still gives me an enormous thrill to be able to do exactly that. I'm often told by members of the public that I have the best job in the world, you can't get a better recommendation than that.