The head of Brighton & Hove’s Royal Pavilion and Museums, Janita Bagshawe, has announced her retirement after 34 years working at the service – 14 in her current role.
Bagshawe will step down at the end of September, just before the council-run museum service transfers to the Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust on 1 October. The new trust will run the service's five existing sites, the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Museum, Hove Museum, Preston Manor and Booth Museum.
Bagshawe’s accomplishments at the service span five decades, from her involvement in the clean-up that followed the Great Storm of 1987 and the £10m redevelopment of Brighton Museum at the turn of the millennium, to more recently overseeing the development of new archaeology, world art, and “spotlight” galleries, the restoration of the saloon in the Royal Pavilion, and the service’s imminent move to trust status.
During her time at the service, Bagshawe has been a keen supporter of workforce development, introducing an award-winning scheme to enable front-of-house staff to undertake other roles to share and develop their skills. She has also championed museum learning through initiatives like pre-school sessions at Brighton Museum and role-play sessions for schools at Preston Manor.
In the wider museum sector, Bagshawe was a Museums Association representative for several years and a member of the organising panel for the 2011 and 2019 MA conferences in Brighton. She has also been involved with the English Civic Museums Network and the Women Leaders Network.
Bagshaw said: “I will miss seeing the fantastic work my colleagues do; my job as head of service has really been to enable them to deliver services including developing programmes to meet audience needs and the care of sites and collections.
“There is far more to be done by all of us to understand and bring to light untold stories, but I’m really proud of what staff in Brighton & Hove are doing to provide space for different voices, make collections more accessible and involve communities in curating exhibitions.”
“Museums change lives, they enable us to learn from the past to make a better future,” she added. “The big challenge for museums will be the changes that will need to be made in response to Covid-19 including adapting to new expectations from visitors, meeting the carbon neutral challenge and making sure museums continue to be relevant and of interest to all communities and reflect lived experiences.”
The leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, Phélim Mac Cafferty, said: “Janita has made a tremendous contribution – a lifetime’s work – to the museums service over many years, leaving it in a strong position to transfer to trust and move into a new chapter.
“Her knowledge and perseverance have helped place our city’s jewel in the crown, the Royal Pavilion, on the map as an outstanding visitor attraction with an historic collection of international importance, while ensuring our museums continue to help enliven our city’s story. She will be terribly missed. I imagine I am among very many in the city who will want to wish her a long and enjoyable retirement.”