Profile: The return of the king - Museums Association

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Profile: The return of the king

The University of Leicester is making the most out of the discovery of Richard III's body
Interview by John Holt
Charlotte Barratt is the Richard III outreach officer for the University of Leicester which, in collaboration with the Richard III Society, led the excavation that found the lost grave of the king under a car park in the city.

How did you get the job?

I was turned down for an interview for a different university job in student recruitment so I phoned up for some feedback. I ended up being asked some different questions including: “How do you feel about Richard III?”

What I knew was largely based on Shakespeare and Leicester legends about him being thrown into the river after the battle of Bosworth and how what was once considered his coffin turned out to be a horse trough. One thing led to another. I seemed to fit their profile and now my role is communicating what really happened.

Were you caught up in the excitement of the original excavations?

There were some open days so I went along. It was on my doorstep and I am interested in history. On the day they announced it really was the king’s body, I was at my desk in my old job and I could actually see the back of the press conference through my window.
The find was genuinely extraordinary, wasn’t it?

There was a lot of homework beforehand, of course, but it truly was a million-to-one chance, a miracle that he was found like that on the first day of the dig. People I work with now still can’t believe it happened in the way it did. A few inches to either side and they’d have missed or really damaged him.
What kind of projects do you run?

We have invited schools in to look at some of the archaeology and genetics and to explain the science of proving someone’s identity. The Now is the Winter… competition looks at the history side through the famous soliloquy and we’re working with the Scouts on developing a heritage badge with a Richard III theme.
Have you always worked in history and heritage?

I ended up in banking by accident after my degree but, after five years, I was made redundant and that enabled me to do an MA in museum studies. I remember sensing things were going wrong when the bank began to find it difficult to find new customers who fitted the criteria for loans and mortgages.

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