The West Front of Knole. Image: National Trust images, Robert Morris

National Trust doubles curator numbers

Jonathan Knott, 19.01.2018
Organisation is increasing focus on collections
The National Trust has almost doubled its curatorial workforce as part of an increased focus on its collections and cultural offer.

At the launch of its 2018 cultural programme in London yesterday, the trust’s director of curation and experience John Orna-Ornstein said this would mean “more curators involved on the ground, in research and interpretation of our places and in our programming”.

The number of curators employed at the organisation has risen from 36 to around 65 since October 2016. The curators’ work will be overseen by Taryna Cooper, previously curatorial director at London's National Portrait Gallery (NPG), who joined the trust this month as its curatorial and collections director.

Orna-Ornstein, who began working for the trust in June following his previous role as Arts Council England’s director of museums, said: “We want our programmes to be of the highest quality – well-researched and scholarly, and we’re going to make sure that’s the case”.

The trust also announced a new national research partnership with the University of Oxford that will draw on academic expertise to support interpretation in locations and online. And the University of Manchester will partner with five trust properties in the north of England to explore their history and its presentation.

This year’s programme includes an exhibition on the English artist and poet William Blake at the Petworth stately home in West Sussex, including objects loaned from the British Museum and the NPG. And a touring exhibition on Dutch paintings will begin at the Holburne Museum in Bath in May before going to the Mauritshuis in the Netherlands and then Petworth.

One of the trust’s major focuses this year will be the Women and Power programme, marking the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave the vote to some women. This will include the display of specially-commissioned work by the 2017 Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid at Knole in Kent, and a touring exhibition showing artworks from the collections of the NPG and the National Trust.

Orna-Ornstein said: “The trust has the sort of collections that I have worked with in my previous career in places like the British Museum. But I what I love about the trust is that we also have very personal, intimate, human collections.”

He added the organisation would aim for a broad audience, saying: “The National Trust was established for the benefit of the whole nation and we want to ensure we have a breadth of cultural programmes that works for the whole nation”.

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