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Rainbow Museum: celebrating our LGBTQ+ staff

The Museum employs hundreds of staff, from curators and scientists to graphic designers and project managers, all of whom contribute to the smooth running of the place.

Here, some of the Museum's LGBTQ+ staff share in their own words their stories of how they came to be at the Museum, as well as the importance of diversity in STEM and museums.

The language and terminology used in these profiles reflects how each individual self-identifies.

Nemo Martin, digitiser and archivist (they/them)

Coming from an arts background, I have degrees in literature and work freelance as a stage manager in a theatre. I think Queer people often fall into the arts because it's generally seen as more boundary-pushing, more inclusive and more accessible to people with alternate gender identities like myself.

I'm non-binary and I was always led to believe that I would have a hard time getting a 'proper job' outside of the arts as nobody would treat me seriously. Because of this, I leaned away from my interest in science and natural history, believing it was impossible to work at an institution like the Natural History Museum.

I've been working at the Museum for five years now, starting out as a volunteer within the fish department and eventually moving to digitising collections and photographing specimens for publication.

I find that working in science and the arts in tandem is fascinating. We're often told that there's a divide between the two and that you have to pick one side - that you go into either science or humanities. If being Queer has taught me anything, it is that the world is a spectrum and there's no such thing as a binary choice, that people are complex enough to juggle more than one passion or identity. I like doing my job - I like to learn, question and create.

I can proudly call myself a Queer artist-scientist.

(Image from left to right: James Maclaine, angler fish, Nemo Martin)

Dr Alex Bond, Senior Curator in Charge of Birds (he/him)

I got my start in science by working on islands.

I have always been fascinated by remote places and particularly those cut off by the sea. I grew up in eastern Canada near the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world. This afforded me lots of opportunity for dreaming about these magical places. From there, a fascination with birds flourished during my undergraduate degree, and before I knew it I was hooked.

I have always been drawn to issues of conservation because it's a field where I feel that I can make a difference. I've been lucky enough to work with some of the most amazing species in some pretty spectacular and remote places, from Gough Island in the south Atlantic to Henderson Island in the south Pacific.

In a way, my studying conservation and trying to understand the harm we're doing to species and bird populations is analogous to my experiences as a gay/queer scientist. We often look at negative impacts only at the coarsest population level, while ignoring the individual.

I've tried to change that, as well as be more inclusive in the way I conduct science.

At the Museum, I'm in charge of the bird collection based in Tring, Hertfordshire. The Museum has about one million bird specimens, and with the other five bird curators we certainly have our hands full.

The Museum is such a great centre for understanding and celebrating biological diversity, so I try to bring in the dimension of human diversity, particularly through my work with LGBTQ+ STEM, a group that champions diversity, inclusion and equity in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Being so openly out and visible is important because I want to be the person I needed when I was younger.

Beca Jones, project manager (she/her)

I remember that when one of my classmates got a summer job at the Museum, I was in awe of how cool his job was. So when - years later - I was offered a post in the central project office, it was a dream come true.

The last six and a half years have flown past, and from a fairly inexperienced start I now look after all the new enhancements to our galleries.

As a project manager I'm responsible for delivering projects on time, which involves managing the budget, risks, schedule and all work packages related to getting the team over the finishing line. A project manager could be described as something like the conductor of an orchestra, always responsible for making everything happen.

Completing the installation of Sophie the Stegosaurus in Earth Hall in December 2014 was definitely a highlight for me as it was a real collaboration between science, engagement and the central project office. A great thing about my role is that I get to work with people from all parts of the Museum and all walks of life!

This leads me to reflect that for me the Museum has always felt inclusive of diversity. I have identified as pansexual for my adult life but have only recently learned there was an actual word for it.

Despite feeling very nervous about writing this public piece, I felt that this was the right place to publically identify with it.

Dr Paul Barret, senior dinosaur researcher (he/him)

Since I was a child I have been fascinated by wildlife, and this quickly merged with an interest in dinosaurs. Growing up on the Kent-London border didn't provide too many opportunities to hunt dinosaurs for real, but I spent a lot of school holidays in the galleries of the Museum, where I'm now employed as its senior dinosaur researcher.

I did originally think about becoming a vet, but palaeontology attracted me much more as it combines thinking about living animals with the problem-solving skills needed to put flesh on bones with only a limited set of clues.

My path into palaeontology was through a degree in natural sciences from the University of Cambridge, followed by a PhD on how plant-eating dinosaurs fed and evolved. I joined the Museum in 2003 after completing research and teaching jobs at Cambridge and the University of Oxford.

My field isn't particularly diverse - in lots of respects - but it might surprise people to know that there are LGBTQ+ people in all walks of life, even dinosaur scientists.

My advice would be to set your goals and go for them, but always bear in mind that luck can play a large role in where you eventually end up.

Haydn Antoniw, Exhibitions and Interpretations Manager (they/them)

I started working for museums after interning at the Science Museum during a science communication master's from Imperial College London.

I always wanted to tell stories about science, and working with museum collections for the first time really inspired me. I got to work with a fantastic team to research contemporary science content and convey it in creative ways that combines design, text, interactivity, events and digital media.

I am continually inspired in my work by the knowledge that what we do can impact lives. I once received a feedback letter which said the content in an exhibition I developed had given a visiting group hope for the future. While not every exhibit can be as impactful, feedback such as this motivates me to carry on with my work when things get tough.

Everything we do in exhibitions is aimed at our visitors, from making sure the content is accurate and engaging to ensuring their experiences are fun, memorable, accessible and relatable - so when you have relatability as a goal, representation really matters.

Reflecting diversity back to the public through our exhibitions and public programmes is vital to inspire the next generation.

I believe the more voices we involve in choosing the stories we tell and how we tell them, the more we will connect meaningfully with all our visitors and offer unique perspectives that are fascinating, nuanced and truly unforgettable.

Nigel Cook, events assistant (he/him)

A typical day for me involves leading our range of school workshops, taking bookings and looking after a handling collection of over 1,000 specimens.

I've always been passionate about the natural world and eventually went to university to study zoology, before moving on to a master's in museum studies. I realised that by working in a museum I could communicate everything I find fascinating about animals and nature to visitors, and hopefully inspire them to care about our planet.

A role at the Museum was the dream for me, and I am so grateful that I get to work in a place where every day is different and where I feel like I'm having a positive impact.

Just like nature, diversity has always been a big part of my life. That's why I believe diversity is so important in science, in museums and in everything that we do. Why experience life from a single perspective when each unique person can bring so much more to the table?

Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to have a career they love, and diversity programmes ensure that all people are given a fair chance in a society historically biased toward only one type of person.

Anna Lincoln, Graphic Design Manager (she/her)

I work in the design studio, where I'm responsible for providing creative graphic design direction and leadership across all of the Museum's public-facing activities. I get to work with a great, established in-house design team and external illustrators.

I have worked for three national museums now and love applying my design thinking to environments where this design touches and informs our visitor experience, often in subtle and sophisticated ways.

It makes sense for Museum staff to represent their visitors and audiences as a whole - I think it is clear there is a gap and it is good that it's being addressed. I've really enjoyed the British Museum's and V&A's LGBTQ+ collection tours, which allow a wider audience to connect with the museums and uncover what has been a hidden history.

I've been involved with the National Trust's Prejudice and Pride programme, designing their catalogue and creating a visual identity and marketing for their Exile exhibition, about a man exiled from his beloved home because of his sexuality. It's part of a wider research programme which I would recommend finding out more about.

Through this, I've seen the benefits of inclusive programming and how it can change attitudes within the workplace as well as be a powerful way to increase acceptance.

Karl Willes, HR Business Partner (he/him)

I joined the Museum in 2011 after a fairly long, and occasionally dull, career in the civil service. I was awestruck on my first day when I walked through the Museum before it opened to the public. I felt like I had the whole place to myself.

My background is in human resources, but I couldn't have imagined that one day I'd be working in such a world-renowned and important institution. 

In my role as HR Business Partner I'm fortunate enough to get a glimpse of some of the incredible work that we are involved in. The dedication and passion of our scientists never ceases to amaze me. Who knew I could be fascinated by the life cycle of a fly or that I'd get to see some of Charles Darwin's original bird collections, complete with handwritten labels, at Tring?

One of my most rewarding moments was supporting the Development & Communications Group at the gala opening of Hintze Hall in July 2017, when I mingled with the likes of Joanna Lumley and Mark Carney. Sir David Attenborough's opening address, his voice echoing around Hintze Hall, will always say with me.

I'm proud that the Museum is supporting LGBTQ+ Pride Month, which has become such an important event in the LGBTQ+ calendar. For me it is a positive and public commitment that the Museum has made to the diversity and inclusion agenda, in addition to recognising the diversity of our colleagues.   

I have always been supported at the Museum and I bring my authentic self to work. I encourage everyone to do the same, regardless of who you are and whatever your background, as your diversity will only make for a better and more inclusive workplace with a more varied, talented and creative skills set.

(Image from left to right: Karl and his husband)

Dusty Richmond, Back of House Operations Manager (she/her)

I've worked at the Museum for 15 years now. I was originally employed as the warehouse manager for retail, before being promoted to Back of House Operations Manager in 2015. I manage all of our retail's non-customer-facing operations, including the warehouse, e-commerce fulfilment, wholesale and offsite logistics.

I am a trans lesbian woman, but when I began at the Museum I was not out as trans. I came out in 2015 and found the Museum to be really helpful with the administrative changes and supportive of me requiring time off for appointments at the Gender Identity Clinic and for related appointments such as electrolysis and voice training.

The Museum has a strong LGBTQIAA+ presence and this gave me the confidence to come out at the ripe old age of 45 and finally live my life as my true self.

Martin French, Collections Librarian (he/him)

My job at the Museum is Collections Librarian, and it involves many aspects.

I help acquire books for the Earth Sciences collections, liaise with curators and researchers to help them get the most out of the Library and Archives. I'm also involved with developing the Discovery Layer on our web page to help people find materials quickly and efficiently, looking after our electronic serials to ensure Museum staff can access them, helping man the enquiry desk in the main reading room, as well as much more.

I like the variety and flexibility of my role: no one day is quite the same as the other.

My route into the Museum and natural history was also quite eclectic. I started as a linguist, trained as a librarian and then worked in a polar research library. The great thing about library work is that you can pick up a lot of knowledge about subject areas as you go - at the moment I'm really enjoying learning about the rocks and gems in the collections.

I think diversity in the Museum is very important. Everyone's story and view of the world is different and should be recorded for generations to come. Diversity in the workplace is also vitally important as it brings us into contact with other viewpoints and allows us to grow and develop as a community.

Scott Wilson, grants coordinator (he/him)

I've worked at the Museum for three years. I love working in museum collections and I was initially drawn to the Museum because it holds a collection almost as diverse as life itself. The roles I've held here have similarly been varied, having worked across Life and Earth Sciences on curatorial projects ranging from British roses to British Romans.

I coordinate a portfolio of research grants. The research we do at the Museum results in new discoveries and ways of doing science. The project I spend most of my time on is called SYNTHESYS+, which is all about making European collections (and collections data) more accessible and impactful, both physically and virtually. My other grants range from studies of extinctions across deep time to studies of deep-sea sponges today. It's a wide bunch.

The Museum is dedicated to understanding and exploring the diversity of life. I'm bisexual and I've had experiences where I've felt like I don't fit in or that I'm hard to 'categorise' socially. That means it makes a huge difference to work in a place that values diversity and difference whilst giving you interesting Monday problems - like how to respond to a sperm whale stranding 300 miles away.

I'm proud to work in a place that admires all aspects of nature, supporting difference rather than finding issue with it.