For our penultimate blog of the year we asked all our staff and volunteers for their working highlights of 2016.
In a momentous year for the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art Peter Jensen, the Chairman of the Home of Horseracing Trust and Chairman of the British Sporting Art Trust, said:
“It was my honour, together with Chris Garibaldi (Director), to escort Her Majesty the Queen, during her tour of our new, wonderful National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art, on our Official Opening day, 3rd November 2016. It was a fantastic day and the weather was perfect, with a clear blue sky. The atmosphere was absolutely terrific and all the Members of our Team and all our Supporters, created a marvellous and warm environment for the opening. The Queen unveiled the stone plaque, which is now hanging proudly opposite the reception, in the new National Horseracing Museum.
“Buckingham Palace wrote to Chris Garibaldi, following the opening and in the letter it stated "Her Majesty was touched by the warmth of the reception she received and enjoyed the visit tremendously". It was an absolutely wonderful day, following eleven years of fundraising, planning, designing, building and installing. Everyone involved should be very proud”.
Newmarket local John Walker said, “As a volunteer, my highlight of the year was the privilege of being invited to attend the official opening".
Marketing and Audience Development Officer Ami Cosgrave concurred saying “The Queen’s visit was a fantastic day – I was one of the lucky ones who got to follow her with the Royal rota of press! You could tell that she thoroughly enjoyed the day”.
She also recalls fondly the soft opening, on Monday 19 September. “Watching Peter Jensen buying the first two tickets, he had been working on the project for 11 years!”
Commercial Director Liz Wilkinson agreed with Ami and was also impressed by the overwhelmingly positive reaction of visitors to the Heritage Centre”.
In a fantastic twelve months Peter Jensen remembered that “The first "hang" in the Fred Packard Museum and Galleries of British Sporting Art, exceeded even my high expectations. There are nine rooms of World Class Sporting Art from the BSAT collection, the Tate's collection and various loans from Galleries, Museums and Homes throughout the Country. Palace House is now an environment of history,class,enjoyment and calm. A perfect way to spend a day for everyone and especially for art and history aficionados. All involved in this terrific Gallery should be very satisfied with what has been created”.
The highlight for Wenda Harris our Visitor Services Team Leader was “seeing the Queen in person, certainly something I never thought would happen to me!”
Two key people who have worked tirelessly on the development have been Curator and Deputy Director, Graham Snelling and Assistant Curator Alan Grundy.
Graham’s highlight was the ultimate opening of the Heritage Centre. “After 25 years at the Museum to see such a project completed gives me immense pride and satisfaction after years of work. It is a great tribute to all concerned and is a fitting home for the heritage of horseracing. The Heritage Centre has gained interest from all over the world and now displays a collection of international significance which puts Newmarket well and truly as a destination to visit”
Meanwhile Alan, said “From the outset I wanted the new museum to highlight the unique nature of the Thoroughbred to visitors. I love watching people marvel at the Inside the Racing Machine projection which I believe is the centrepiece of the museum which the rest of it revolves around. A fantastic creation by Briony Jackson and Spiral Productions”.
Part of the Science Learning and Participation Officer Briony Jackson’s role was putting together the Sporting Glory Gallery. Briony’s highlight was filming Frankel adding
“It was a pleasure to work with the team at Banstead Manor and Frankel was such a pro, we got the perfect shot, the sun even shone!”
Conservation Officer Juliane Ovenden’s highlight was “seeing the displays come to life after I completed the conservation of all the objects required and we installed them into their cases in the Heritage Centre. It has been a fantastic, albeit busy year and I feel very privileged to have worked on some amazing objects from racing history such as the Salisbury Charter, Fred Archer’s Coffee Pot, Frank Buckle’s Saddle and Frankie Dettori’s Magnificent Seven silks.
I still get a thrill walking through the new galleries seeing all the hard work of the museum team finally coming to fruition”.
Juliane was supported by our volunteers, who are proudly led by Community Engagement & Volunteering Manager, Hazel Courtley who remarked
“The highlight of 2016 for me is the fact that over 100 people volunteered to help us move to the new Heritage Centre and to get up and running and open to visitors. They cleaned, catalogued and packed over 10,000 objects and are now welcoming visitors, helping in the shop and looking after the horses. We are really lucky to have such a fantastic group of people who are great ambassadors for Palace House”.
The enthusiasm shown by our volunteers is captured from the thoughts of Lucy Clarke.
“I love meeting visitors to the museum and I want them to get the best experience from their trip. It's a big site; it took me at least six circuits before I could comfortably find my way around! I want to ensure new visitors don't miss gems like the Trophy room.
“Visitors should know that they can chat to any of the volunteers or staff to get more out of their trip. My most memorable visits have been because the staff or volunteers have shared snippets of fascinating information about the displays, paintings and exhibitions.
“I feel very proud to volunteer at the National Heritage Centre. I love the mix of the old and the new and the history brought to life with hi-tech. My favourite part is the Kings Yard and Rothschild Yard and the Clare Balding interviews in the Trophy room”.
One of those volunteers, Pauline Newson relished being shown how to clean a frame of a Stubbs painting and “I dined on it for months”.
Our Education Officer, Gabrielle Bell’s highlight came during the Dubai Future Champions Education Week Project, which saw the whole of Newmarket Academy’s year 8 (approximately 120 students) take part in a week long programme of activities about the racing industry, its heritage and its impact on the town.
“I was with a group as they watched a demonstration from the farrier near the Rothschild Yard. He shaped the hot metal, explaining his actions as he went along, then cooled the finished shoe and handed it to the students to pass around. It was then that I witnessed a special moment: one student held it up to her nose and breathed in.“Oooh it smells interesting,” she exclaimed…..and there it was- a perfect illustration of why we are here. In this time of technology and futuristic interaction, nothing allows you to experience the authenticity of the senses- whether it is the aroma of the farriery process or the ringing of the hammer on hot metal as the sound dances around the yard- in the same way as actually being there!
…and that is our strength. It was a perfect moment".
Two members of staff who always seem to be on the premises, dawn until dusk, are the Operations team of Manager Nick Kelly and his assistant Jon Snaith, a mainstay of the museum for many years.
Jon, the former jockey is known for his gardening skills and seeing the King’s Yard lawns he tenders so carefully feature on the cover of Golding of Newmarket’s winter brochure was a special moment for him.
Meanwhile, new team member Nick's, chosen highlight was starting his journey with the National Heritage centre. “Apart from the challenges of starting a new job there has been the pleasure of meeting so many fantastic people”.
Finally, Liz Wilkinson was excited about the return of horses, for the first time since autumn 1985, to the Rothschild yard as part of Retraining of Racehorses charity. Joe Grimwade, the Yard and Public Engagement Manager went further to say “my highlight was the Newmarket Open Weekend in mid September when we had six horses in the yard, which included 3 Group 1 winners on the Flat and 2 Grade 1 National Hunt winners”.
I hope you have enjoyed the first half of our highlights blog. Next week we will feature, the special days from the turf in 2016 for our staff and volunteers.
A Happy New Year to you all.
We would like to thank Juddmonte for allowing us to use the photo of Frankel.