As part of International Women’s Day 2022, Hagerty is giving a platform to women driving change. Catch the other stories in this series and read about the precision welder breaking down gender stereotypes, the lecturer podcasting from her Morris Minor, and one of Britain’s most influential motorcycle racers.
“Going right back to the 1920s there have always been dynamic and impressive women actively taking part in the Bugatti community; talent speaks for itself and that’s what makes those women role models. Driving Hellé Nice’s [a dancer and racing driver] Bugatti Type 35 round the test track at Bicester Heritage was extraordinary. To be in the actual car that she raced, let alone allowed to take it for a spin as a perk of my involvement in the Bugatti community was incredible, but I also get great enjoyment from the little things. If you work in a museum setting, especially a small one, you need to be adaptable; not all of it is glamorous.
From a mindfulness point of view my job offers many wonderful opportunities to be in the moment. I might find something in the archive, such as Hellé Nice’s personal address book or the finishing times for the 1931 Targa Florio endurance race, that will make everything else disappear.
Being able to focus on that one item, and really study it, that’s when I’ll be 100 per cent in flow; I will absorb all the little details including the smell and the feel of the paper. When I discover something that I’ve been looking for, that’s when it becomes exciting. In a world of chaos the museum environment is a bubble of wonder, learning and history that brings people together.
The modern job description for a curator involves everything from collections management to marketing and PR, public speaking, archiving, social media, event management, co-ordinating exhibitions and agreeing car loans, picking up litter outside, polishing and stapling. I work four days a week and I’m frequently in early and stay late because I love it. There are four members of staff here at The Bugatti Trust, including me, and although we have specific areas that we look after, we support each other in our roles. We also have an amazing group of volunteers who help out in the archives as well as directly with the public in the museum.
‘Passionate’ is a polite way of describing how my dad felt about Bugattis. As a family all we did was go to car events; from the minute I could walk I was taken to hill climbs and racetracks. We visited people who owned Bugattis and I would just marvel at their cars; I feel that same wonder when I come to work. I want people to find at least one thing during their visit, whether it’s the trophy given to Grover-Williams at the first ever Monaco Grand Prix in 1929 or one of Rembrandt Bugatti’s sculpted animals, that ignites a spark.
It’s thanks to the artist Stefan Marjoram that we’re able to run free drawing classes for children and there’s no prize winner because we want them to be happy sitting there with a pencil giving it a go. I’m a mother of two daughters and have seen how prescriptive education can be, so it’s fascinating to see what the children produce; one drew the general shape of the Type 68 Bugatti and then every single rivet because that’s what he was interested in which was marvellous. The people I looked up to when I grew up were the ones who trusted me to do a job, even if it was slightly out of my ability, because they believed in me.
I was my father’s navigator on rallies before I even had a driving licence and eventually became his co-pilot. During the seventies and early eighties we met a lot of people with direct connections to Bugatti including some of the drivers who raced for Ettore Bugatti himself. They were all so passionate about their cars, but also art, history and science, there was such a thirst for continuous learning.
I’ve been a curator at The Bugatti Trust’s museum and study centre for six years, and consider it an honour to help people connect with the Bugatti story. We offer summer internships to students at the University of Leicester who are doing a museum studies degree, and host groups of school children on a regular basis.
We’re an independent UK registered charity, not funded by any other Bugatti organisation. We do our own fundraising through special events, the services we provide to the Bugatti community of owners, restorers and enthusiasts with sales of drawings and photographs, membership scheme [£50 pa] and of course museum visits charging £5 for admission and under 16s go free. The money generated helps fund our educational outreach programme with a STEM and STEAM focus. We work with primary and secondary schools across the country as well as a number of universities including sponsoring several Formula Student teams.
We’re located at the foot of Prescott Hill, which is rather nice, but we are a completely separate organisation to the Bugatti Owners Club. In 2019 we were crowned Museum of the Year at The Historic Motoring Awards; which was a huge honour but also mind blowing. We were up against some mighty organisations and James Elliot, [the editor of Octane] who was presenting, said something on the lines of “If there is ever proof that size is not what makes a winner it is The Bugatti Trust”.
As a small museum we can meet everyone who comes through the door. We get Tripadvisor reviews, we read them and we take them to heart; you can’t please everyone all the time, especially on social media, but if one person has a negative comment it really upsets me. Everything I’ve ever known is connected to Bugatti so my job means a ridiculous amount to me. I take it seriously, perhaps too seriously.
There are different ways to become a curator, some choose it as their first career path, others retrain, and others get involved through volunteering and a job opportunity comes along. I was a trustee long before I applied for the role, I wanted to be more hands-on.
Born in Germany, I moved to France aged ten, which is where I studied economics at university. At 21, I applied for jobs in London and accepted an offer to work as a trainee in the PR department at Christie’s and frankly, it was amazing. I worked ridiculous hours but I got to travel, meet people and see cars I never thought I’d see outside a collection. My four languages were very useful and eventually I became European press officer. After Christie’s I freelanced for many years. I think my eyebrows turned white overnight when I coordinated the UK launch of the Bugatti EB 110 in central London which involved organising a parade of 25 Bugattis in Hyde park, a press conference for 100 and a gala dinner for 650 with my team at the time.
The museum is a place loved by 5-year-olds and 105-year-olds where no expert knowledge is needed to have a good time. We let people touch engines and crankshafts, and there are all kinds of artefacts to explore, including an original electric Baby Bugatti.
Our temporary exhibitions (which we sometimes take on tour) rely on brainstorming, proofreading and fact checking, as well as generosity from those that lend us cars. A few years ago the curator at The National Automobile Museum in France loaned us the completely original 1939 Bugatti Works Type 59/50B. It’s one of the most famous Bugattis in existence so it was a very big deal. For the official opening of the exhibition we invited one of Ettore Bugatti’s granddaughters, Caroline, and her family and the son of the works mechanic who was there when the car was last on the road, bringing all of that together was very special.
You should be proud of the organisation you work for, and I think I’m a little bit Bugatti obsessed, which I blame my father for in the nicest possible way. I don’t think I’ll retire any time soon.”
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