New curator's pride at landing Blairs Museum role

An award-winning conservationist has shared her pride at being appointed curator of a high-profile north-east museum.

The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has announced Dr Alison Burke to her new role at Blairs Museum in South Deeside Road, Aberdeen.

She was previously creative project co-ordinator with Aberdeen City Council where she started in 2017 to build creative networks in Education in Aberdeen, working with arts based projects in the city’s schools.

She has also worked with the National Trust for Scotland as manager of Drum Castle and Craigievar Castle. Two years ago she was awarded the George Waterson Award for Services in Conservation for management of Drum’s collection and the creation of a bespoke gallery to continue displaying the Aberdeen Art Gallery’s choice collection items during its refurbishment.

Ms Burke said: “I am looking forward to getting to know the Blairs Museum collection and working to bring the treasures it contains to a wider audience. The museum houses an internationally renowned collection of fine and decorative art from across Scotland and from the former Scots Colleges throughout Europe, which deserves to be known and seen by as many people as possible. I am excited by the possibilities which this role involves and grateful to the Bishops’ Conference for their support.

“My first day in the job involved escorting the watch of Bonnie Prince Charlie to the National Museum of Scotland as a temporary loan for the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jabobites exhibition. Holding Charles Edward Stuart’s watch was for me a career highlight. It leaves you speechless. I felt so privileged.  On the reverse of the watch is a picture of his daughter, so this very personal possession makes the historical figure more familiar and human – it brings you closer to him.  I have grown up with Bonnie Prince Charlie in music and history, in fact a much younger me once acted the part of the Bonnie Prince in a pantomime at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, so it was extra special for me to hold what he held.”

Ms Burke was also voted Pride of Aberdeen Business Personality of the Year last year for her work at Drum Castle which saw a dramatic rise in visitor numbers.

Bishop Joseph Toal, president of the Heritage Commission of the Bishops’ Conference, said: “I am delighted that we have secured the services of Dr Burke, a leading professional in her field. We welcome her to her new post to promote and develop and care of the Scottish Catholic Heritage Collection, especially preparing and obtaining accreditation for the museum. This is a new era for the promotion of the Heritage of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”

The collection at Blairs Museum also features a portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, as well as near contemporary paintings of Mary Queen of Scots.

The priority for Ms Burke will be to re-open Blairs Museum for the summer season, which will involve recruiting volunteers to help with interpreting the collection for visitors on weekend afternoons.

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