Changing of the guard

Published 9:00am 9 February 2023

Changing of the guard
Words by Kylie Knight

After 30 years in leadership roles at Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology, Director Edith Cuffe has stepped down saying it’s time to enjoy being a volunteer and Lady Edith of Abbeystowe.

Edith says there were two main reasons for the decision – the museum is moving into a new phase and needs someone fresh and energised to take it there, and the challenges of the past two years have taken a huge toll.

“I felt I wasn’t equipped to take it the next step and it needed someone who was younger who had energy to make it grow into being the vibrant cultural centre it has the potential to be,” she explains.

“Two years of COVID and the challenges and stress that the museum went through has taken its toll on me. I know I don’t have the energy to continue going.

“There comes a time when any leader has to say, ‘it’s time to step back. It’s time for someone to take it through to something bigger and better.

“You have to realistic when your health and wellbeing starts to be impacted. You’re no good to an organisation if you continue to go on.”

Edith remains on the board as Secretary and is volunteering two or three days a week, helping out with grant applications and offering guidance as needed to the team including new Director Chloe Tanner.

“I’m still very passionate about the museum and its potential,” she says.

Changing of the guard

Reflecting on three decades

Edith has enjoyed many highlights during the past 30 years.

“One has been seeing the Medieval Festival grow. When it started, it was just a very small event. That’s been exciting for me to see it grow and develop and enjoying the national recognition that it has today,” she says.

She has also seen the museum grow and employ paid staff.

“We now have a team working to provide quality experiences for our visitors and schools,” she explains.

“I’m pretty proud of where we’ve come from over that time and the fact that we do have a solid team and thanks to the support of every level of government, we’re now in a strong position and the museum has potential to grow.”

The past two years have, however, been the most challenging of her time with the museum.

“They have been the most stressful. At the beginning of 2021, we were questioning our survival,” she recalls.

Thanks to government funding, the museum can now plan for the future with confidence and has an exciting expansion in the pipeline.

“The museum presents the memories of our history. History is really important to give us a sense of place and inspiration. We can demonstrate the choices that people have made which have been negative and had an impact on people. From history we learn,” Edith says.

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