Hilary Wade, the Director of Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust, will be leaving at the end of December. She has headed up the team at Tullie House since 2003, when she was recruited to transfer the museum service from Carlisle City Council to an independent trust. During her time at Tullie House, Hilary has overseen major changes and improvements, and in particular has raised the national profile of Tullie House as a major cultural attraction for the region.
Amongst the achievements Hilary is most proud of is developing collaborations with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery. She coestablished the Cumbria Museum Consortium, in partnership with Lakeland Arts and Wordsworth Trust, and led the consortium’s successful bids in 2011 and 2014 for Major Partner Museum funding from the Arts Council, which has helped support the museums broad range of learning activities for children, families, young people and the elderly, strengthening Tullie House as a community attraction for Carlisle.
While she has been at Carlisle Tullie House’s collections have been strengthened by such objects as the Roman Staffordshire Pan - a Roman souvenir of Hadrian’s Wall which was an innovative joint purchase between Tullie House, the British Museum and Stoke Museum - the Viking material from Cumwhitton - which is due to be put on public display in March 2016 - and art work by Michael Eden, Kate Nicholson and Martin Greenland. Perhaps the most memorable individual object, although “the one that got away”, was the Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet where Hilary led an impressive worldwide fund raising campaign. Tullie House was finally outbid at auction when the helmet was sold for over £2m. Hilary’s patient behind the scenes negotiations however enabled Tullie House to borrow the Helmet from its anonymous owner for a memorable record-breaking exhibition in 2013/14.
The Roman Frontier gallery is another outstanding achievement. Hilary led the fundraising for and development of this gallery, now an important tourism attraction at the western end of Hadrian’s Wall. The financial package she pulled together included funding from the North West Development Agency, the European Regional Development Fund and Carlisle City Council.
Hilary is proud of the range and diversity of the temporary exhibitions that have been shown at Tullie House over the past 12 years, ranging from fashion with “Philip meets Isabella”, the fantastic creations of hat designer Philip Tracey, to how the “Little Black Dress” has changed over the decades, or the interactive automata of ”Mechanical Circus”. Art exhibitions have varied from “George Howard”, a celebration of the work of this important local patron of the Pre-Raphaelites and an artist in his own right to more contemporary displays of local artists such as Keith Tyson, Donald Wilkinson and Julian Cooper.
Hilary is a firm believer that the museum has to be continually renewing itself in order to remain attractive to new and existing audiences, while at the same time it needs to keep up high standards of scholarship and display and be able to respond to competition. Throughout the past 12 years she has received the support of a skilled and enthusiastic team at Tullie House. The Cumbria Museum Consortium has funded an innovative apprentice programme, and a volunteer coordinator. There are now a growing number of volunteers; in 2003 there were only a dozen; now there are over 50 who are "tremendously important to Tullie and a truly valued part of the team."
Tullie House has received many accolades and awards over the past 12 years while Hilary has been in charge, including the national Visitor Attraction of the Year Award (silver) in 2008 and last month the Cumbria Life Award for the Anslem Kiefer exhibition. In 2014 Tullie House received the Cumbria Large Visitor Attraction of the Year. She was delighted when it won the Kids in Museums award in October 2015 - national recognition demonstrating how her team have been working to make the museum more attractive and relevant to families and young children.
None of this would have been achieveable without the tremendous dedication and commitment of the staff at Tullie House “I am very privileged to have been running such an important museum and working with such great enthusiastic and creative team “Transferring Tullie House from a local authority museum to an independent charitable trust in 2011 involved massive changes.,required a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes, which included negotiating leases and other formal agreements with Carlisle City Council and amending many of the organisation’s operating policies, working practices, financial procedures and staff contracts.
Hilary believes Tullie House is fortunate to have an excellent Trust Board with experienced Trustees who dedicate much time and effort to it . Hilary is now looking to spend some time travelling and Patagonia is at the top of her list. She has built a network of links with people working the creative industries and museums and intends to keep in touch. Hilary is staying Cumbria and looks forward to watching Tullie House go from strength to strength: “it is a great museum and such a fantastic asset for the people of Carlisle and Cumbria.”
Roger Cooke Chair of the Trust says:
“Hilary Wade has led Tullie House successfully through a challenging and exciting period of major change, during which the organisation, has made significant progress and recorded some substantial achievements. Her contribution to the short- and long-term development and success of Tullie House has been and will remain greatly valued”.
Hilary Wade will be replaced by Andrew Mackay, currently Head of Collections and Programming at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery.M Wiggins