Antiques Roadshow: A Q&A with Susan Starrett

If you tuned into last night’s Antiques Roadshow, you might have noticed Fiona Bruce presenting from our very own Ulster Folk Museum. Nothing tugs at that the heartstrings more than a wee bit of nostalgia, and we’ve no doubt last night’s programme would have transported you back to memories of school trips and family days out.

We are extremely proud of the outcome of the Antiques Roadshow production. Much of this success is attributed to the hard working and dedicated staff and volunteers at National Museums NI who worked tirelessly to ensure it all went off without a hitch! We decided to catch up with those working behind the scenes to find out what it meant to them.

Meet Susan Starrett. Susan is the Visitor Services Manager at Ulster Folk Museum and Ulster Transport Museum. Susan was in her first week of employment at National Museums NI when she was informed Ulster Folk Museum would be hosting Antiques Roadshow – talk about being thrown in at the deep end…

Image: Susan Starrett, Visitor Services Manager at Ulster Folk Museum and Ulster Transport Museum.
Susan Starrett, Visitor Services Manager at Ulster Folk Museum and Ulster Transport Museum.

What was your first reaction when you got the news that Antiques Roadshow was coming to Ulster Folk Museum?

I was delighted and saw it as a great opportunity to showcase the Ulster Folk Museum to a wider audience. I was informed within my first week of starting with National Museums NI that we would be hosting Antiques Roadshow and I would be supporting with delivery. I can’t think of a better introduction to a new role than being involved in such an exciting project. 

What does this mean for Ulster Folk Museum and National Museums NI?

Being involved in a show with the magnitude of the Antiques Roadshow is truly very special. It is a unique and engaging way to showcase our collections and the wider museum to those who may not have visited the museum before, and to those who may already hold fond memories. It is an opportunity to showcase the great work in conservation, in collections care and the great work of our teams on site. There is no better way to extend the impact of our collections.

Are you an Antiques Roadshow fan? What did it mean to you on a personal level?

I was brought up with the Antiques Roadshow on the TV every Sunday and have loved it from a young age. I attended the last Antiques Roadshow filmed in Northern Ireland at Castle Ward, and had a great experience- being involved in the Roadshow for me, personally, has meant a great deal.

After the news had settled in, what did you do to prepare for filming?

Plan, plan and plan again. We planned working groups with key members of the National Museums NI team and quickly developed a close relationship with the Antiques Roadshow team who were fantastic to work with. We had every finite detail planned with a key focus on showcasing our collections and telling the stories of the Ulster Folk Museum. The week before the trucks rolled in, all of the final details were worked out and we were fully prepared to welcome our contributors and spectators on site.

What was the reaction from the wider team and local people?

Our team are so passionate about the museum and live and breathe its ethos of connecting the past to the present - they couldn’t have been more excited for the world to see the museum that they love. We were delighted to welcome our members to spectate during filming and received a great reaction from the local community.

Tell us about the days when filming took place.

We were very lucky to experience glorious sunshine throughout our filming days. Everyone from our volunteers to spectators to contributors were in great form with everyone commenting on how good of a day they had, had. The Antiques Roadshow team engaged with all of our spectators including Fiona who couldn’t have made everyone feel more at ease. The work that had gone into planning and working so closely with the BBC team paid off, and everything went smoothly.

How did you unwind after filming wrapped up?

As the trucks rolled out, I did too! We filmed at the beginning of the week and I made the wise decision to take the remainder of the week off - a great way to reflect on the experience!

What were you most excited about when the programme aired?

I couldn’t wait to see it and told everyone I know to watch it! I felt an enormous sense of pride on seeing the show air - it felt slightly surreal to see it all coming together. It was a collaborative effort across many departments at National Museums NI and really showcased what the Ulster Folk Museum has to offer. I was most excited for those who have never visited us before, to see the depth of our collections, and encourage them to venture on a day out at Cultra.

If you missed last night’s programme, you can always play catch up at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/b006mj2y/antiques-roadshow