Who's who at Cutty Sark? Meet Curator Louise

My name is Louise Macfarlane and I recently joined Cutty Sark as maternity cover Curator. My first month has been a whirlwind of discovery. From learning about the ship's history to memorising nautical terms, it's been a fascinating beginning.

I am yet to have a typical day. The variety of what I do is a challenge but a hugely rewarding one.  As well as gradually learning everything I can about Cutty Sark’s past and present, my job is to explore all ways of bringing her story to life for as many people as possible.

My day might begin with checking my emails and replying to an enquiry from a model-maker about the ship's colour scheme. Then it is onto a meeting about the ship's maintenance - are there any leaks and what do we do if so? Next, it will be onto some collections research. What does a particular object tell us about Cutty Sark? Does it reveal anything about the ship's structure, the periods in which she sailed or the men who served upon her? Do we know where it is from and who gave it to us? Can we display it and if not do we have space to store it and adequately conserve it? All of these questions and more must be answered about all of the objects we hold.

Next it might be a curatorial tour. Let's walk through the ship and discover her stories. From her tea years to her wool years; from her weather deck to her dry berth where we can walk beneath her and admire the shape that enabled her great speed. Then it might be onto some writing and research. I’ve been asked a question I don’t know the answer to or invited to write an article about her lesser-known years as a training establishment in Greenhithe, Kent. Delving into original documents and researching her past is much like a constructing a puzzle, the pieces come together to paint a colourful past.

Then it might be an emergency meeting about a broken interactive. It has to be removed for repair but what shall we replace it with and do we have the money? Next it’s onto a meeting about the ship's 150th anniversary in 2019. What can we do that will both celebrate and illuminate? How can we raise her profile and be true to her past? 

Cutty Sark, Greenwich

And then in the evening, a short talk about the history of the ship to guests who have booked a dinner in the dry berth. I'll head home with the din of rising chatter and clinking wine glasses behind me as our guests enjoy talking about their day in the presence of great history.

Cutty Sark is a living, breathing slice of the past, having adopted numerous identities along her way. She is the very last of her kind; a sailing ship built in the age of steam; a symbol of the wealth and empire that Britain built by mastering the seas; a ship which became a training vessel and then a memorial to the Merchant Navy and now a world-famous historic site. She has touched the lives of many and it is a pleasure and privilege that I get to play any role in both preserving and celebrating her. As you can see my job is very much about asking questions. Thankfully, our world-famous ship has all of the answers.