Brunel Museum

Podcast: Becoming director of the Brunel Museum during a global pandemic

Image: Katherine McAlpine © Bill Green Photography

Imagine taking on your first museum director role as society is once again locked down due to a global pandemic that is crippling the sector’s finances.

Katherine McAlpine doesn’t have to. This is exactly the situation facing her as she fulfils a long-held dream by taking charge of the Brunel Museum – and she can’t wait to get started.

Having worked for organisations including the Natural History Museum, National Maritime Museum and, most recently, Imperial War Museums, McAlpine will be a familiar name to many readers. It is this strong grounding in the sector, twinned with boundless enthusiasm, that convinced the Brunel Museum’s Board of Trustees she was the perfect candidate to take the institution forward.

The London visitor attraction, quite appropriately given the year we have all endured, tells the story of the first tunnel to be built under a river anywhere in the world and how its construction and subsequent uses never quite went as intended.

Designed by engineering great Brunel to transport goods, the groundbreaking structure first became a site of entertainment for Victorian Londoners and now houses TfL’s Overground rail crossing between Rotherhithe and Wapping.

Ahead of her first day as director, which will hopefully go far more according to plan despite having to be undertaken from home, McAlpine caught up with Advisor to discuss the main priorities – local community engagement, digital offer, sustainability, diverse representation – which she hopes to implement in the coming months and years.

“The experiences of lockdown have really shaped what I want to achieve”

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