Director of The Beacon Museum
We caught up with Elizabeth Kwasnik...
When did you move to Whitehaven and why?
I moved to Whitehaven in June 2014 to take up the post of director of The Beacon. I was interviewed in may and had been in my previous post for 19 years! I felt the job was a unique and innovative position and the fact that the museum had just gone into a collaboration with Sellafield to display their story made me want to take the job even more. Sellafield has not bought the museum in any way, they have leased a floor to tell their story and exhibit their work. We still need people to support the museum.
What will your average weekday consist of?
There is no average weekday! I will normally come in and check in with the staff, and then make my plan for the day, although this usually goes out of the window in the first 30 minutes! I am normally marketing the museum and raising the profile. I try to think of strategic ideas to draw
in more tourists. I have spent my time recently trying to create links with local businesses and colleges and trying to get to know the friends of the museum better. I am also trying to get to know the other museum managers at The Rum Story and The Haig Museum. I have also been trying to identify strengths and weaknesses to make the museum stronger and stronger each day. I try to spend at least half an hour each day meeting visitors in the gallery and talking to them. We are here because of the continued support of people who visit.
What will your average weekend consist of?
I am currently trying to drive the business model forward Monday to Friday. I only work weekends if we have staff shortages or an event on. At the weekend I try to visit other places, I have been through to Rheghed in Penrith and to Ravenglass to. I am currently trying to acquaint myself with the wider cultural area.
Do you have any hobbies or pastimes?
I really enjoy walking, tennis, gardening and am partial to the odd pint of real ale - although I didn't move to the area for that! I also really enjoy theatre and if there is something on that I fancy at the cinema I will also go there. I love being outdoors and breathing in fresh air.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to do something in science and at first pursued it! I studied biology and zoology which is one of the reasons I was attracted to this post, for the new Sellafield story!
A few years ago, along with the Civic Hall The Beacon was deemed for closure, since Sellafield stepped in do you think the future is bright for the museum?
The museum's future is a lot brighter than it was. I hope we may work with Sellafield for many, many years but they will never subsidise 100% of the money we need to run the museum we still need to work to drive up ticket sales and secure the future. The Sellafield story is all part of the museum.
What do you most love about your job?
I love meeting different people. I love looking after material for future generations and telling the story. It is a huge privelage to look after material for previous generations. I love to hear other peoples stories.
What was your first job and what did it involve?
My first job was when I was a student at university, I worked in a canteen with many other students, the only permenant member of staff was the manager who had a heart of gold. I worked there because I needed money to use whilst I was at university.
What would you advise local business owners to do in order to survive in these tough economic times?
They need to be creative and do what they have to do. Customer service is key. They need to have the best quality they possibly can. Customers want to feel they are getting good value for money.
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you?
Well my friend and I, (who is now a senior officer at Shell) were asked to leave St Paul's Cathedral by a verger! I had just told him a joke and we had to leave. He had a horrendously loud laugh and could not stop
What does the future hold for The Beacon Museum?
There is a great future ahead for the museum, We have the support of the wider community which is growing and growing. I am determined to raise the profile of The Beacon Museum further and to get more great exhibitions here in the future.
What are your greatest achievements?
I am very proud to have 3 publications to my name and very proud to be the director of the Beacon. I feel it a huge responsibility and didn't take it lightly, it is a very serious task but I enjoy it!