Sarah Kay

Curator, Attingham Consultancy, Midlands

Sarah Kay - Curator

I’ve worked for the National Trust for almost 19 years and it is my dream job. I’m passionate about historic, beautiful places and things, the inspiring, emotional power they have and the fascinating stories they have to tell.

Curator checking a new mortar sample against old

When I was at school I always knew what I loved: art, design, history, architecture, landscapes, but I never thought I would find a career that could combine all these things. I believed in the conservation aims of the National Trust but never saw it as a place to work.

On the advice of my sister-in-law who worked for the Trust in the Lake District, I started as a full time volunteer, then became a Research Assistant, Assistant Curator and then fully-fledged Curator. So for many years I have been fortunate to spend every day looking after, researching and getting excited about collections of furniture, paintings, buildings, landscapes, trees, books, barns, textiles, and everything in between.

Setting a period table at Attingham
Curator Sarah Kay recreating a period dining table at Attingham Park
Setting a period table at Attingham

That’s what’s so amazing about being a Curator with the Trust – it is so infinitely varied and interwoven with the rich strands that make up each and every place we look after and share. No two days are the same: I can be looking at silk damask curtains and miniatures on ivory in the morning and a tottering Dutch barn in a muddy farmyard in the afternoon. .

Carefully carrying cutlery
Curator Sarah Kay wearing gloves and carrying cutlery
Carefully carrying cutlery

What is also great is having the opportunities to share my work and passion with visitors and volunteers and learn from colleagues. Together, we are discovering things all the time such as new research into archive documents, hidden clues in historic buildings that link with archaeology, making decisions that balance historical accuracy and protection of the natural environment, making choices about land uses on historic farmsteads.

I am Curator for the Trust’s properties in Shropshire and Staffordshire, from big places like Attingham and Shugborough, to small landscapes like Hawksmoor and Wenlock Edge. My key responsibility is championing what we call Spirit of Place, a property’s soul, what triggers an emotional response in us. It’s also about sharing our passion for what we do and why we care (Curator comes from the Latin ‘cura’: to take care).