Profile: Carol Homden, British Museum - Exhibiting the best of British/Carol Homden is co-ordinating PR for the redeveloped British Museum

The British Museum is ringing with fire alarms, but its new communications supremo Carol Homden is unflappable amid the confusion. She wends a swift path towards a small-scale model of the redeveloped museum great court, against a tide of hundreds of exit-bound tourists, churning out museum facts and figures at speed as she goes.

The British Museum is ringing with fire alarms, but its new

communications supremo Carol Homden is unflappable amid the confusion.

She wends a swift path towards a small-scale model of the redeveloped

museum great court, against a tide of hundreds of exit-bound tourists,

churning out museum facts and figures at speed as she goes.



Norman Foster’s stunning great court project - the redevelopment of the

old British Library reading room and its surrounding courtyard, which

will form the heart of the museum in the new millennium - is the reason

Homden’s role has been created.



She acts as an umbrella for a vast array of functions, covering 85

people: from media relations, through public information to exhibition

design and photography. Her task is to promote the pounds 98 million

scheme - London’s first fully-funded ’millennium project’, which opens

in autumn 2000 and is part of a broader revamp including two new

galleries. ’It’s the start of something so exciting I almost cannot tell

you about it,’ she breathes, losing her characteristic business-like

poise for a moment.



Homden is quite clear that she is unphased by her new post, though

whether this stems from genuine self-belief or a convincingly brave face

is hard to tell. She compares the redevelopment of London’s top tourist

attraction to promoting Westminster University’s new pounds 33 million

Harrow campus - one of the challenges she tackled in her previous job as

the university’s marketing and development head.



’The new campus was a transforming experience for the organisation,

releasing a great deal of energy,’ she says. ’The museum is like one of

the university campuses. Managing the marketing and development of a

modern university at the heart of London is directly paralleled by the

British Museum.’



This comparison appears belittling of an institution which is a

cornerstone of British intellectual life, but it does make sense.

Homden, herself in possession of a PhD on the plays of David Hare and

well-versed in the language of management consultancy, honed her

communications skills over 12 years at Central London Polytechnic - now

Westminster University - and intends to apply that successful model of

public sector PR to the Bloomsbury giant. As her former boss,

Westminster vice-chancellor Geoffrey Copland says: ’It’s a natural

progression. It’s a demanding job, but she’s got the energy and the

focus to tackle it.’



Homden is certainly not lacking in these two attributes: despite having

only been in the post for two weeks, she talks like a walking

encyclopedia of the British Museum past, present and future, which no

doubt involves evenings of cramming in between tending to her two young

sons - ’the other element of my CV’. The eight-year-old and the

five-year-old have already been dragged along to the museum several

times in the last few weeks.



’We are museum-going people,’ Homden asserts grandly, reeling off the

names of museums she has ’done’. Her husband, Steve Caplin, used to edit

the magazines of the Museums Association. He is now a successful digital

illustrator whose work regularly adorns the features pages of the

national press. Homden and Caplin met on holiday in Torquay in their

teens and have stuck together ever since, even attending East Anglia

University together, before founding an arts magazine in Norwich while

Homden completed her doctorate.



Homden already exudes an air of ownership over her new workplace. This

is characteristic: she literally becomes her workplace. Her emotions

over leaving Westminster are obviously still raw: ’I have many friends

there and will always consider myself its advocate,’ she says with

feeling.



One can’t help but feel that any institution with Homden as its

advocate will be supremely well served. This is a woman who knows what

she wants and almost always gets it through an enviable mix of gentle

but firm combativeness and oodles of charm and smiles. ’When Carol sets

her sights on something, she can always produce sound arguments,’

Copland laughs.



HIGHLIGHTS

1989: Corporate comms director, Polytechnic of Central London

1997: Marketing and development director, Westminster University

1999: Marketing and public affairs director, British Museum



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