A Day in the Life of a Senior Collection Coordinator

How did you come to work at the Government Art Collection?

We start this interview with a simple question, often asked in a typical social interaction. It’s also a question that people interested in joining the art industry, particularly an institution like a museum, would be keen to hear about.

James Morrison shares his original pathway to the Collection:

I studied Fine Art at university and after graduating had to find full-time employment with a regular income to help reduce five years of student debt. My first job was in a central London commercial art gallery but after 3 years I decided to move into the public sector. Over the next 12 years I worked for the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and Arts Council England (ACE), specialising in export licensing for cultural objects. During my time at ACE I had the opportunity to study for a diploma in Art Profession Law and Ethics where I learnt a lot about working with a Collection. After completing the diploma I knew this was the direction that I wanted my career to take next.

How do you start your working day?

Always with my inbox and the public facing email inbox (if I don’t have a meeting to attend first thing).

What does a typical day at the Government Art Collection look like for you?

It often involves a lot of admin. The Senior Collection Coordinator is a pivotal role responsible for business and project planning, finance and budget management, providing secretariat to the GAC Advisory Committee, managing copyright in and out of the Collection, drafting responses for questions that come through from the public, through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, or for Parliamentary Questions (PQs); or putting information together for policy documents and ministerial submissions. I also schedule and oversee any public tours and dealing with public enquiries of a wide-ranging nature. However, whenever possible I try to take some time away from my desk to help colleagues with some art handling or to take a look at some artworks that are about to go out on display before they are packed.

What is your favourite part of the job?

Without a doubt, providing secretariat to the Collection’s Advisory Committee – this is a real privilege. Not only do I get to view an array of artworks selected to bring to the Committee for consideration, I also hear the opinions on the artworks from members of the Advisory Committee (which includes the Directors of the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Slade School of Fine Art). This has helped me learn to look at artworks in a different way and it is always interesting when a work being considered splits opinion down the middle!

What is different about the Collection compared with other places you have worked?

I am lucky to have primarily worked in the arts, however I think this Collection has a special atmosphere. All the staff love working here and are 100% committed to what they do, and being employed by a Collection that is part of central government will always be unique.

Interviewed by Dr Claire FitzGerald, Curator (Modern and Contemporary)