Michael first started work at the Stirling Smith back in August 1979, at a time when Margaret Thatcher had not long been handed the keys to No.10 Downing Street. Michael had trained at Glasgow University as a geologist, graduating with a BSc in that subject, and after hanging around for a number of years with a collection of old fossils, his friends and tutors naturally advised him that he belonged in a museum. And so Michael decided to take their japery quite literally, resolving to develop his curatorial skills professionally.
After graduating, Michael worked for a year with the University of Glasgow Department of Geology, and then spent a further six months at Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum. In the summer of 1979, he applied for a vacancy at the Stirling Smith, and after successfully assuming the post he has never looked back since.
If there’s one thing that can be said about Michael, it’s that there’s no job at the Smith that he won’t try his hardest to master. As the Collections Manager, he has been maintaining the building, facilitating exhibitions and utilising computer technology and digital imagery from his earliest days in the job. Michael has many memories of his time at the Smith, and has witnessed a great number of changes to the building and its services.
In his time in the job, he has set up (and taken down) more than 400 individual exhibitions, perhaps most notably The Stirling Story, a permanent exhibition in Gallery III. Today one of the biggest attractions in the Smith, The Stirling Story took over four months to build, and is visited by thousands of guests every year. Gallery III remains Central Scotland’s biggest single exhibition space.
One of Michael’s best-known roles is that of the Official Keeper of the World’s Oldest Football. Dating back to c.1540, the ball is one of the Smith’s most popular exhibits, and Michael has showcased it both nationally and internationally. As well as appearing with it on television features, Michael was responsible for transporting the ball to Hamburg’s Museum für Volkerkünde for the 2006 FIFA World Cup celebrations. He is currently also appearing with it on a YouTube™ video on the Internet.
Additionally, Michael was one of the founding members of Operation Skylark, a children’s countryside playschool which was organised with Stirling Countryside Rangers Service, which involved one hundred children for a week each year. The project ran for around ten years until 1992.
Michael was Chair of Stirling Conservation Volunteers for over a decade, and a Trustee of Scottish Conservation Projects for five years. At the moment, he is on the Committee for the Restoration of Portmoak Bog in Scotlandwell near Kinross, and retains a keen interest in all new developments in restoration, digital photography management and museum issues.
In recent times, Michael has been searching out the treasures of the ethnographic collection with a view to a future exhibition. He is also currently looking into making the Smith more accessible to international audiences by using new technologies to bring the museum’s collections alive for visitors regardless of their location.