Other Staff

Judy Willcocks - Head of Museum and Study Collection

What’s your background?

I’ve worked in museums since I graduated. I worked for the British Museum for a fair while. Then I went to run a regional museum in the west country, but discovered I wasn’t really a country girl. It’s been museums all the way.

What do you love most about your job?

Traditional audiences are very passive – you tend see either younger children or retired people. Both of these audiences expect you to be the one who knows everything. That’s not how it works in higher education, and definitely not in art schools.

There’s a knowledge exchange here. I know about the history and context of objects in the collection, but I rely on students to have a knowledge of the technical processes. This makes the job much more fun and interesting.

What’s your favourite thing about Central Saint Martins?

It’s quite high octane and challenging. All these people are at the top of their game - the students and the staff. There is a lot of bravery - nobody’s taking the easy route just because they can. Working here has definitely changed me.

Central Saint Martins is everything that traditional museums aren’t. Just after I came here I laddered my tights on the way to a senior management meeting. I was panicking about where to get new ones, then someone said: “Honey, this is Central Saint Martins, that stuff doesn’t matter here.”

What would your advice to new students be?

The University has all these wonderful special collections. There are places where you can see and touch the most amazing things, things that you’d really struggle to get your hands on in the outside world. It’s all there for your inspiration. Use it.

What’s your favourite art movement?

Our museum is, in part, an Arts and Crafts collection and there are a number of things I like about that movement. Firstly, their fight to erase the distinction between ‘high’ art forms and everything else. That’s really important for Central Saint Martins students - the fact that ceramic, textile and fashion design are now seen as art forms.

The Arts and Crafts movement was also quite preoccupied with the well-being of the designer, as well as the quality of the end product. They believed that good design should be something that we pay for, and that the people who make it should live good lives.

What’s you favourite item in the museum?

It depends what day you ask me. Today? This 14th-century book of hours, which was owned by Chevalière d’Eon. He was a French diplomat and spy who changed gender during his lifetime and is buried in St. Pancras churchyard. Everything about the book is brilliant - the illumination, the story, which has inspired many students, and the local connection too.

What is the best part of your day?

I do love the stuff I look after, but the most inspiring bit of every day is the students. Although I’ve been working in museums for 17 years, I learn something new every time I show an object to a group of students. Everyday is a school day.