…Kevin Bentman, Visitor Services Officer
I have been working for the council for over 10 years now at three local buildings, Preston Manor, the Booth Museum of Natural History and Hove Museum & Art Galleries.
The Visitor Services Officers are a dedicated and very hard working team; we have great local history knowledge of all three buildings.
There is such a diversity of local museums including Preston Manor in Preston drove. It’s a beautiful Victorian home once lived in by Sir Charles and Lady Ellen Thomas-Stanford, shared with their family and dogs. Here we have an upstairs downstairs feel to the family home all left as it once originally was.
We hold role-play for children all dressed up in Victorian costumes in which they rein act tasks and chores from cleaning, making fire lighters and beating rugs to cooking preparation. All taught by our very own role-play team, acting as Maurice Elphick the Butler and Miss Rose the head housemaid, both equally as friendly and scary at times! The Children learn so much and get a real feel for what it was like back in the day, they have so much fun they don’t ever want to leave us.
We then also hold ghost tours and late night vigils with mediums, behind the scenes tours throughout the year and croquet on the lawns in the summer. All of this is surrounded by stunning gardens swept with scented flowers and colourful plants.
Next to us is our neighbouring church which is opened daily by volunteers. The Church dates back to the 13th century and was modified in 1870.
Preston Manor was lived in by many families over the years – The Elringtons, Shirleys and the last tenants being the Stanford family until 1932. The house was handed to the people of Brighton through the Brighton Corporation and reopened as a museum in 1933. Much later in the 1980s the basement with kitchen and boot hall was launched. This was due to it being fashionable to see how people worked below stairs.
I also work in the Booth Museum of Natural History along Dyke Road, filled to the rafters with birds, insects, bones and fossils.
Owned by Edward Thomas Booth in 1874 to house his rare collection, it was believed he wanted to collect one of every British bird which he very nearly succeeded. On display are plenty of rare and now extinct varieties.
Glass cases surround this historical museum, including some newly modernised discovery and insect galleries, a hands on area alongside a room for people to work away at, we always welcome groups, students and school groups. Photography is allowed and artists can sketch away.
Curators are often on hand to answer questions and items can be left and later identified, we also hold children and family ticketed events through the year, the most popular is the reptiles were you can touch both spiders and sssssnakes!
And lastly the 3rd building I work in is Hove Museum and Art Gallery set along New Church Road. It is a grand building steeped in character, hosting an array of local arts and crafts, toys and film.
In the Wizards attic upstairs children and adults can gaze at the toys from the 1920s to the present day, a cinema screen projecting three films from local film makers including a lantern show and looking at Brighton from 1920s to 1980s, Brighton was a very different place back then!
An exhibition gallery downstairs hosts changes every so often always attracting visitors from all over. At present we have Robot Invasion, choc full of retro sci-fi robots and its collectable memorabilia. And for those of you that need a refreshment we have the Tea Room which I can say is Truly Scrumptious.
The hard working team of staff here are like one big family working to give visitors that Brighton & Hove Museums Experience.
Our daily work as a Visitors Service Officer is like that of a security role. We also man the gift shops, are at hand for any information, carry out day to day cleaning, promote tickets and events among many other things.
I love my job as it’s always different and you deal with a wide variety of peoples needs…oh and of course we have fun doing it. We hope you come and visit us soon!