Bowes Staff – Catherine Dickinson

When I was asked to write a blog about my time at The Bowes Museum, I knew it would be something that I would be happy to do, but what I didn’t think was just how difficult it would be to do it!

I mean, where do I start? It’s been… amazing! When I applied for my apprenticeship three years ago (as if it’s been three years!) my main thought was ‘This should be a good experience’. To think back now, I realise just how much of an understatement that thought was.

Each year has brought its own ups and downs (thankfully way more ups) with each one creating crazy memories and experiences which even now I still stop and think ‘Did that really happen?!’

From the moment I started here I was thrown in at the deep end- And quite honestly, I don’t think I would have wanted it to begin in any other way.
In my very first week, we had three exhibitions opening at the same time. Everyone was running around manically to make sure everything was done, while myself and Charlotte- my fellow Creative Apprentice- were kept occupied by cutting out object numbers, peeling vinyl from the Glass Cube and making sure that we didn’t look too terrified.

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Failing miserably at not looking scared…

During the preview at the end of the week, our names were read out during the ‘Thank You’ speeches, and even now I can remember how we both just looked at each other as we felt the same huge sense of achievement (even though we probably did the least work that week…)

Turns out, this was going to be the first achievement of many.

As time went on, we had the opportunity to be involved in some amazing exhibitions. Milksnatcher, The Thatcher Drawings; Artist Rooms: Robert Mapplethorpe; Shoes: Pleasure & Pain and who could forget the incredible Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal, just to name a few.

I think for some, the months of planning and organising, followed by weeks of long days and late nights of installs and deinstalls would be a pretty unappealing idea of work. Not me.

Yes the process is long, the late nights are tiring and occasionally stress levels can be high… But once you’re at that preview, or even just back in the gallery the Monday after an exhibition has opened, it’s difficult not to feel happy and proud. To have that thought of ‘We did this!’ To me, that’s a sign of having a brilliant job.

Finishing my apprenticeship was such a strange time, and I’m not going to lie, leaving my team and the job that I loved was really hard.

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Our final attempt at a decent team photo… Nearly got it

And just like any other person who ends an employment contract, I had the constant thought of where will I go next?… Turns out, I was heading back to the Bowes.

Four weeks after finishing, I made my way to the museum, no longer an apprentice, but instead a Project Coordinator.

Just like with my apprenticeship, I can remember my first week so vividly. It was quite an overwhelming time- But in a good way! To be back was the best feeling in the world- although I can’t deny it was strange being in a different department. And to top everything off, I received an award from Gateshead College for Creative Industries Apprentice of the Year. Something which even now, one year later, I still can’t quite believe!

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This past year, my life has been dedicated to one painting- St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child by the workshop of Dieric Bouts. Admittedly, a painting which would not have normally been one I’d automatically be drawn to, but a project which I made sure I put 110% no matter what.

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St Luke in its current home of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

However, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t quite move away from our exhibitions programme and the brilliant team that I’d been part of for so long. And so, every install and deinstall, you’ll have either found me painting a wall, hanging a painting or sticking up vinyl (Apparent Vinyl Queen right here!)

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This went on right until last week- My final week. And quite honestly, I don’t think I would have wanted to spend it in any other way.


Now, for all that working at the museum has helped me professionally, I have to admit that it has helped me personally as well.

Three years ago I was unsure, unqualified and unconfident. Now, I don’t think I could be further away from being that person!

To be at a point where I now know what I would like to do for a career (something which I haven’t been sure of since I was six years old and thought I was destined to be a hair dresser) feels like a weight off my shoulders. I have my apprenticeship behind me, which will always be one of the best things I have ever done- If you are considering doing one, or know someone who is, I would highly recommend it! And now thanks to the constant support and encouragement from quite possibly the best colleagues and amazing new friends, I feel more confident than I have for a very long time.

So… I’d like to hope from this slightly blabbering blog post I have kind of summed up my time at The Bowes Museum. But in short, it’s been the best experience I could have ever asked for. I don’t think I realised just how much things would change for me or how lucky I would be to get to meet so many amazing and lovely people.


Would I have changed anything? No.

Do I enjoy my time there? Definitely.

Given the chance, would I go back for a third time?…In a heartbeat.




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