All change


This week marks a landmark in the history of the Museum. Kristin Andrews-Speed will retire after 23 years of loyal work.

Over the years, Kristin has arranged corporate events and venue hire, been an essential part of hiring new staff, and managed all sorts of complicated logistics. She’s a dab hand at coaxing the photocopier back to life, too!

When a landmark is reached, it’s a chance to look back. In Kristin’s 23 years, she has seen enormous changes in the Museum, so I caught up with her to share some memories and reflections.

IMG_2245On 22nd July 1991, Kristin walked through the doors of the Museum and into her new job as assistant to the administrator.

With a zoologist father and a previous job at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, Kristin always had a love of natural history. She soon fell in love with the beautiful building and its fascinating collections.

In 1991, just 83,000 people visited the museum, – the fact that it was open only Monday to Saturday from 12-4.30pm probably didn’t help. But with extended hours and Sunday opening introduced in January 1999, visitor numbers soared, reaching 575,000 in 2012.

“It’s wonderful to see how many more people are now enjoying the museum and still gasping as they walk through the main door.”

The museum’s first director, Keith Thomson, arrived in 1998 and Kristin’s job changed to include Director’s Assistant duties. They shared a love of ornithology and Kristin remembers when they watched a Black redstart clinging to the museum building. The Director brought many changes, like a full refurbishment of the main museum displays, which Jim Kennedy later continued.

Museum staff in summer 1998. Kristin stands on the far right, second row from the front. Delphrene is on her left.
Museum staff in summer 1998. Kristin stands on the far right, second row from the front. Delphrene is on her left.

Kristin described a major change in how the Museum runs reception events. She talked affectionately about a hot evening in August 1991 where she served drinks to guests on the gallery, with help from the museum’s cleaners, Delphrene and Sue, and quickly learnt how to open a bottle of wine. All a long way from the professionally catered events of today.

Kristin’s meticulously maintained diaries have become such a valuable piece of the museum’s history that they will be added to our Archival Collections, for future fact-finding missions.

Kristin has enjoyed meeting all kind of people, from new young scientists to older staff and visitors with their stories about the Museum over the years.

Great events for her have been the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibitions, which returned this year, Slade Lectures, Mark Wallinger’s tardis, Angela Palmer’s Ghost Forest and Derek Siveter’s amazing Chinese fossils from Chengjiang.

IMG_2173One way that Kristin will remain connected with the Museum is by watching out for our summer visitors; not the tourists, but the swifts!

I’ve always kept my office window open in late April to listen for the first screech of the birds round the tower, and will continue to listen out for them around Oxford.


Rachel Parle, Education and Interpretation Officer

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More than a Dodo

I'm Public Engagement Manager at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and I look after permanent displays and other interpretation. I do a bit of social media on the side, too.

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