Second year museum studies graduate student Katherine Loughrey recently completed a three-month internship with the Churches Conservation Trust in Bristol, United Kingdom. The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) is a not-for-profit charity charged with the preservation and interpretation of over 350 historic churches in England. These churches, while remaining consecrated, are no longer used for regular worship by the Church of England and are reinvented as focal points in their communities and protected by the CCT.
Loughrey worked on support materials for volunteers at the 14th century church of St. John the Baptist in Bristol. Originally built directly into the city wall with the tower and spire located over the medieval city gate, St. Johns is a unique building full of the mercantile and religious history of Bristol. Originally one of four such churches in the city, St. John’s the only surviving gate-church in Bristol and possibly England. It’s rich social and architectural history from the 14th century to 20th century, is opened and interpreted daily by a team of dedicated volunteers.
Of the church, Loughrey states that “it’s a remarkable piece of Bristol history, transcending and fluctuating within the bands of the past six centuries. For example, a merchant’s tomb from the late 14th century stands atop gorgeous Victorian tiles and next to a significant 16th century carved wooden altar, all of which are experienced at once but retaining their own unique tale of the people and politics of Bristol.”
Loughrey also worked with a community group which draws in the church each week. The group held an exhibition of their art in the crypt, for which Loughrey facilitated planning and installation.
Loughrey worked under the guidance of a small but passionate staff in Bristol learning how to best support volunteers in historic spaces, as well as learning first-hand about the triumphs and challenges faced by the arts and culture sector in the United Kingdom.
“Spending the summer in Bristol and having the opportunity to visit not only the CCT’s churches but other museums, historic homes, and cultural institutions in England has demonstrated how similar the cultural field is in the United States and the United Kingdom," said Laughrey. "Professionals in both countries are dedicated to their work, promoting the arts and advocating for many of the same issues and opportunities for their communities. It’s been a fabulous learning experience and I am grateful to my supervisors for their support and willingness to share their expertise.”
Loughrey is the second student from the University of Florida to intern with the CCT, Vivian Gornik completed an internship in conservation with the charity in 2011. Loughrey is currently researching how museum education collections impact the visitor experience in museums.