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Behind the Scenes – Sainsbury Centre

Kirsty Munro is the Conservator at the Sainsbury Centre Museum and Art Gallery, based at the University of East Anglia. She has worked there for the last couple of years, before which she worked for the National Trust – and has also been involved with a number of projects for private conservation studios.


Tell us a bit more about the Sainsbury Centre and your job?

As Conservator at the Sainsbury Centre, I care for the objects in our permanent collections, both through preventive measures, such as controlling environmental conditions, and through carrying out remedial object treatments as required. I also look after loans in to us, courier our objects on loan to other institutions and work on exhibitions.


The Sainsbury Centre is a unique venue to work in and visit. The building itself is a fantastic example of a Norman Foster building, set into picturesque surroundings, including a lake and an ever-growing sculpture park. The contents of the building, however, are even more spectacular! The collection inside is one of the most varied collections you can find, as it contains objects spanning thousands of years and from all over the world. As an Objects Conservator, it’s incredibly exciting to know that during the course of a day I could be working on anything from our Cycladic figures, dating to c. 3000 BC, to an artwork made by a prominent contemporary artist. I currently have a list of objects requiring treatments in order to stabilise them for future display, including a large group of objects from Papua New Guinea. Some of these treatments will be complex, requiring extensive materials testing and analysis, so I’m really looking forward to getting started on these!


Aside from your own work, what are your must-do cultural activities in the region?

Having started my career with the National Trust, one of my favourite cultural pastimes is to head out in the countryside and explore their properties. My absolute favourite is Ickworth House, in Bury St Edmunds. When the sun is shining it’s very easy to look at the Italianate Rotunda and be transported to Italy! I also really enjoy visiting the Theatre Royal in both Bury St Edmunds and Norwich, and going to comedy gigs wherever they pop up.


And what else would you recommend in the region?

I have a very energetic Puggle named Jessie, so weekends are often spent outside, finding new walks to tire us out. One of our favourite walks is at Lynford Arboretum, part of Thetford Forest. There’s a lovely long walk containing a dog agility course, wildlife, streams, a view of Lynford Hall and then great drinks and snacks at the Shepherds Baa to finish it off. We also love heading off to the coast and particularly to Old Hunstanton beach, as its dog friendly year round and perfect for playing fetch.


Lastly, what is special about the Sainsbury Centre?

I think the Sainsbury Centre is a special place to work, not only for the building and collections, as incredible as they are, but also for the vibrancy and inclusivity of it. We operate on a ‘pay if and what you can’ basis, so that everyone is welcome and able to come into the galleries and experience the permanent collection spaces and the exhibitions for themselves. Our new seasonal approach to programming, which has each exhibition responding to a key theme or question being asked, also ensures that each display is relevant to today, sparks interesting conversations and is accessible to all.