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Susan Haimes

Susan Haimes, Property Manager, Woolsthorpe Manor

"I am the Property Manager at Woolsthorpe Manor.  When I was a qualified geologist I was particularly interested in historic buildings and building stone but a car accident cut that career a bit short so I went to work at a hospital, which was a great job, but it didn't really capture my interest.  Somebody suggested that I should look for a job with the National Trust.  I applied for a couple of jobs, which I didn't get so I started doing a part time MA in Heritage Management.  When this particular job came up it was advertised on the National Trust website; I applied and it was probably my science background that was the clincher!

I was terrifically pleased but there had been quite a gap between the previous manager leaving and myself, we had a week of hand over about three months before I started.  There was a tremendous lot to learn but everyone was very friendly and welcoming. 
My job is as business manager for this particular National Trust property; I oversee its future developments, staff management, fund raising; I liase with experts on things like conservation, planning considerations, building works and keep the place repaired and running.  It is such a varied job, there is a tremendous amount in it but it is good fun.  I like developing the house especially.  We have done a lot of work to improve the interpretation of the house and to make the rooms feel as though the family has just left.  Doing things like that is really satisfying when you see people's reactions.  When they are pleased and they appreciate what you have done, it is great.  Lately the turnover of business has increased but unfortunately so have the costs.  The place expanded and changed a lot over the years during the times of previous managers and continues to do so.  There are a lot of things that can still happen.  Some of our most immediate projects are Museums Accreditation; a project to plan for the renewal of the Science Centre, and setting up a bursary studentship scheme.  These are the next things on the list really.  In the house itself we are working on the fireplaces to get that more 'lived in' look. 

We get visitors from all over the world.  We have people who feel they are on a pilgrimage.  The weather can make a difference; people know that because they will be indoors, they can come to us in wet weather.  If there has been a lot of rain and then it turns sunny, everybody goes to the garden centre!  There is a lot of hands-on stuff here, especially in the Science Centre, which makes this a most unusual National Trust property.  Increasingly a lot of National Trust properties are moving towards having more interactive displays. 

Margaret talks to a lot of groups when they come here.  Janice, one of our volunteers goes out to Women's Institutes and similar groups.  She dresses up in her 17th century costume.  We all have one; you can't get me into mine and you can't get Janice out of hers!  One of her talks is called 'Dirty and Smelly', about real life in the 17th century.  It brings in the use of herbs and that sort of thing.

In the winter the first thing that happens is that everything in the house has a very detailed clean.  Sometimes a piece of ceramic is cleaned with a cotton bud.  It is very close work that takes about three weeks of full-time work to get the house cleaned and shut down, including hoovering the walls and ceilings.  This takes us towards the end of November and then we usually have a tremendous amount of project work and financial and strategic planning for next year that takes us towards Christmas.  Then projects, press work and ordering for the shop.  Also we plan events for the volunteers.  We try to have a social calendar for them throughout the year.  Then we do try to have a break if we can as it is difficult to get one in the summer.  We are kept busy all the year round."

This page was last edited on Tuesday 04-Aug-09 21:48:19 BST

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