Raby Castle’s new curator Julie Biddlecombe-Brown cannot wait to uncover some of the untold stories behind the fascinating family collections. Here she tells us about the knowledge she brings to the role and what she is looking forward to most about being part of the Raby team.
How long have you worked as a curator?
I have been a curator since the mid 1990s. Before joining Raby I was exhibitions curator at Durham University, a role I held for 9 years. During my time there we arranged many fascinating exhibitions including the Lindisfarne Gospels in 2013, which was a huge step change for the county and really helped to put our region on the historical map.
Tell us about your first impressions of Raby Castle
I’m a local girl so I grew up in Durham and have driven past the Castle many times. It never fails to take my breath away and I don’t think that sense of wonder will ever wear off. My memories from visiting as a child are dominated by the armoury in the Entrance Hall which really grabbed my attention. I moved back to the North East around 14 years ago after working all over the country and visited the Castle again on a beautiful sunny day. The thing that really struck me then was Raby’s idyllic setting and the vista of the Castle. It is one of the few castles in England where the surroundings are still open and unspoilt and we can see it as it would have been viewed centuries ago.
Do you have a favourite period in history?
Working in exhibitions I have become used to researching many different eras and aspects of history. The thing that matters most is the enthusiasm I can bring to help engage audiences with the stories behind the topics and this is what I really enjoy.
Has anything in particular caught your attention since you arrived at Raby Castle?
I have been really struck by the enthusiasm and passion of the people here. The volunteers and guides are so knowledgeable and they’re fantastic at communicating Raby’s past with the public.
What have you already discovered about Raby’s history?
Pockets of research have been done and there is so much I want to follow up on. I am looking forward to digging around in the archives to uncover more untold stories. One of the things I will be working on is pulling together all the information that already exists into a database so that it is much more accessible.
As you embark on your new role what are your priorities?
The collections are amazing and I can’t wait to find out more about how they came to be at Raby Castle. For every piece of art and every decision made, right down to which wallpaper was chosen for a particular room, there is a story behind it. I am fascinated to find out how and why these things have come into the family collection, whether it was personal taste or fashion, and by exploring these things I hope to shed light on life in the Castle and the people who have lived here over the years. The process of research never stops and by exploring different angles and perspectives we can build a wonderful picture of life at Raby over the centuries.