Len Pole FMA

Case study
“Supports museums other than his or her employer (as adviser or trustee, for example) and/or plays a leading role in the work of museum sector groups e.g. committees of specialist groups/federations, working groups.”

Len Pole FMA, museums consultant

Since receiving the MA Fellowship in 1982, I have been employed by Uttlesford District Council as Curator of the Saffron Walden Museum, and Exeter City Council as Curator of Ethnography and Collections & Interpretation Officer at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery.

During the past three decades, I have been involved with museum sector organizations at various levels: countywide (Essex Curators Group), regional (South Midlands Museums Federation, South Eastern Museums Service) and national (Museum Ethnographers Group - MEG). I was chair of the MEG from 1999–2002, a member of its managing committee in the 1980s and 1999-2006.

In the 1980s, together with other committee members, I assisted with the collection of information for the Survey of Ethnographic Collections, published by MEG in 1986.

I have taken particular interest in issues surrounding the treatment of human remains in museums, including the Group’s Guidelines on Management of Human Remains, published in 1994 and making a submission to the Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport on this matter in 2000.

Most of my professional life has been concerned with ethnographic collections in provincial museums in UK. I became increasingly aware of the huge range of small but significant collections in these museums which deserved to be better known, but which receive little publicity and even more rarely, specialist attention.

I have spent some time trying to change this. Two examples of my involvement in this are: a survey of ethnographic holdings in the English south-west, for the South West Museums Council, published in 2000 as World Connections (now available on the RAMM website; and highlighting, in a dedicated website, some of the fine objects held in Welsh museums.

During my time at Exeter, I gave assistance to museums in Devon and Cornwall on their ethnographic collections, as well as trying to help the now sadly defunct Exeter Maritime Museum in its last year of operation.