I arrived in my current job as Front of House Manager via a very different route to most members of staff who work in museums.
I went to drama school and spent the first seven years of my working life as a jobbing actress. When I left the profession, I moved into publishing at Oxford University Press, then travelled the world for a year. On my return I spent two years letting houses for Finders Keepers and Bradford and Bingley before returning to publishing at Taylor and Francis.
Then my Mum decided to retire from the family business, a fantastic, fun party shop called Celebrations in the centre of Oxford. The chance to be my own boss with complete autonomy was very tempting and I took over the business in 2008. I ran Celebrations for ten years and I loved it. Unfortunately the opening of the Westgate shopping centre instigated the closure of many small independent businesses, including mine, which couldn’t compete.
So I needed a job and fast. When a friend showed me the position of Front of House Manager I was delighted; it was perfect. Though I have no experience of working in a museum, the skillset of running a business and team to staff the shop was instantly transferable. The huge amount of admin involved was another transferable skill. Even my acting skills help enormously in speaking to the public, giving education groups introductions to the museum, showing presentations, training the team, and managing the occassional difficult conversation.
The Museum of Natural History was also a place I loved having brought my children to since they were small. The idea of working in such a venue every day was joyful, and remains joyful to this day.
What makes a Front of House team special at a museum? A positive attitude, willingness to problem-solve for the team, our visitors, and museum staff. An ability to put our visitors at ease and learn about the fascinating collections. Most importantly a smile and a sense of humour. It’s not the easiest job, and you can never know what each day will bring. It’s never boring though, that I can assure you.