This month sees the retirement of The Ruskin Museum director Vicky Slowe, after 26 years of restoring and enlarging the home of arts, heritage and history.
She has spent 52 years in the museum business, starting at Abbot Hall in Kendal, where in 1969 she helped organise an exhibition of John Ruskin’s art to mark 150 years anniversary of his birth. ‘Ruskin has rippled through my whole career and it is appropriate that I should retire in the year of his 200th birthday celebrations,’ she said. Vicky was parachuted into The Ruskin Museum when its valuable collections were identified by the old North West Museums Service as at risk.
In 2006 she raised £600,000 to build an extension to house the Bluebird, Donald Campbell’s water speed record-busting boat, which in 1967 crashed killing him. Tyneside engineer Bill Smith had raised Bluebird from the bed of Coniston Water and renovated it, with the intention of it being put to rest in the museum. But he made such a good job of the restoration that he now wants to take it on a world tour to fire up its engines and run it again.
‘No-one realised how long it would take to rebuild and conserve Bluebird, and no one foresaw it would be fit to run on water again, so things have all become a bit complicated,’ Vicky added. Negotiation to resolve the impasse, involving Campbell’s family, were continuing as Lancashire Life went to press.
Vicky Slowe, the outgoing curator of The John Ruskin Museum in Coniston.