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Lizzie Johansson-Hartley is the Museum Manager at No. 1 Royal Crescent in Bath, an elegant Georgian townhouse revealing what life was like for Bath’s rich and fashionable residents – and their servants – 250 years ago.
October 10th, 2019
Lizzie, what was it about No.1 Royal Crescent that sparked your interest?
After an MA in Museum and Heritage Management I spent five years volunteering and working for the National Trust before joining Bath Preservation Trust and taking on this wonderful role at No. 1 Royal Crescent. Those National Trust properties were Edwardian and Tudor but my heart lies in the Georgian period and 18th century history. My thesis had been on Georgian kitchens and I’m delighted that the kitchen here is so well-preserved and authentic; you can really get a feel for the life of the house from this working space.
I am part Swedish & part English and I grew up in Surrey. I moved to Bath for this job, two years ago, and absolutely love this beautiful and cultured Georgian city.
What does your role as Museum Manager entail?
No. 1 Royal Crescent welcomes over 60,000 visitors every year. We’re a large townhouse, with extensive servants’ quarters, but balancing the impact of visitors on our very precious collections against the desire to give them the best possible experience can be tricky! We have so many stories to tell, from social history and culture to architecture and fashion, and we manage over 200 volunteers working at the museum who share those stories in each room.
I ensure that the collections are cared for, negotiate loans, devise temporary exhibitions, write promotional material and ensure our visitors enjoy a really authentic experience. I also put together an events programme, bringing in speakers or co-ordinating late night openings or arranging days when our guides are all in costume. No day is the same as another; I might be changing light bulbs in the morning, giving a talk to the Jane Austen Festival at lunchtime and designing the Christmas table display in the evening.
What makes Bath Preservation Trust's museums so special and how do you work together?
No. 1 Royal Crescent is one of four museums in Bath managed by Bath Preservation Trust. The link between them is stories they share about life in Bath in the Georgian period; its architecture and social scene, famous residents of the time and what they brought to the city, plus what was happening in the wider world during the Age of Enlightenment, from inventions and discoveries to agriculture and music.
I work alongside three other museum managers, of the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, the Museum of Bath Architecture and Beckford’s Tower. Together we link our annual exhibitions to one common theme and take inspiration from each other’s stories. It’s a very creative environment, coupled with the main work of Bath Preservation Trust which is to preserve and enhance Bath’s cityscape and local environs which together make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What what would be an ideal day out in Bath?
A day in Bath is never enough time! There is so much to do and see and to really experience the city requires at least three days. However, an ideal day out for tourists and first time visitors would be to visit The Roman Baths in the morning, followed by a lovely lunch out at one of the many unique cafes that fill the city centre. I would then recommend a short walk along the river via Great Pulteney Bridge to Sydney Gardens and then finish the day at No. 1 Royal Crescent. This way you can experience both the Roman origins and the Georgian heyday of the city.
Can you describe Bath in three words?
Vibrant, historic and unique!
What can we look forward to from Bath Preservation Trust museums in months to come?
There's a new Christmas offer at No. 1 Royal Crescent! Instead of dressing the house for an authentic Georgian Christmas, this year we will create Christmas through the Ages and dress rooms differently, showing the changes in style from Georgian, Victorian, through wartime to the colourful celebrations of today. With some late night openings, candlelight, and coinciding with Bath’s famous Christmas Market, we hope visitors will delight in our festive programme.
Next year, the theme linking the four museums is music. At No. 1 we’ll show preparations for a musical evening party; the Museum of Bath Architecture will focus on plans for concert halls never built in Bath and use musical entertainment as a theme for its popular photography courses; the Herschel Museum of Astronomy will celebrate Caroline and William's musical talents before they became renowned astronomers; and we’ll look at some of the compositions polymath and eccentric William Beckford wrote.
For more details on what's on at No.1 Royal Crescent, click here.