20 questions Liz Montgomery @The Grosvenor Museum

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1. How are you ?

Fantastic, thank you. I had an unexpectedly relaxing Christmas after testing positive for Covid on Christmas eve. I only felt rough for a couple of days then spent the rest of the time inside playing board games and watching movies and enjoying family time – and I’ve been powering through things as a result.

2.What are you working on at the moment ?

I’ve been working on a big application to Arts Council to have Chester’s amazing collection of Roman stones designated as a collection of national significance. That’s been submitted now so, as well as our 14th Open Art exhibition which is up at the Grosvenor Museum until the beginning of April, I’ve been highlighting the importance of our Chester silver collections – one of the best regional collections in the country outside London – with some filming and talks, finalising our exciting exhibitions and events programme through to May (check out our website for details) and making sure all our huge and varied collections are well cared for and looking into more stories to share. I manage a great team across our four sites so there is always lots to do to make sure we offer lots to our visitors. Keep a look out for our annual training dig in Grosvenor Park in May, in partnership with University of Chester, for new and exciting discoveries right in the city centre.

The Open Art exhibition
The Grosvenor Museum

3. Describe your typical day

I often say people would believe what our work is like as Curators. I really don’t have a typical day. This week I have been giving talks to local groups on our costume and silver collections, transporting a giant rainbow across Cheshire in a huge van, going into a school to deliver sessions on Victorian crime, evaluating dissertations from University of Chester Archaeology students for the Chester Archaeological Society Dissertation prize, researching parts of the Natural Science collection to support Chester in Bloom Spring arts and much more. This morning, I drove over to Blacon Police Station to collect an ancient skull which was uncovered during the recent road widening work along the A51 and delivering it for analysis to uncover more of his fascinating story. Honestly, we have no typical days!

4. What are your favourite exhibits in the museum?

I genuinely love everything we have on display in our museums – good job as I’ve seen them everyday for over 12 years! We have the bright and shiny, the amazingly made, the beautiful, the clever and the very personal. What I like most is the stories that lie behind object in our collections, and every object has one. I’m an archaeologist by training so high up on my list has to be our stunning collection of Roman stones, the largest from a single site in the UK. Not only are they visually fascinating, they tell us about the lives of people living in Chester nearly 2000 years ago – where they came from, what they did, who they loved, how they wanted to be remembered – it’s like these people speaking to us across the centuries!

I’ve been growing to love our Chester Silver collection recently too. One of my favourite pieces is by master silvermaker, Richard Richardson II and is the two-handled St Martin Cup, so called because it features the figure of St Martin of Tours astride a horse on its bell-shaped cup. Technically difficult to make because it is cast in several pieces, this piece dates from 1755-6. It is one of the only 18th century pieces with a Rococo Chinoiserie decoration featuring a turbaned figure, palm tree and pavilion – a style inspired by European fantasies about China.

5. Who/what is your inspiration in life

TV historian, Mary Beard, various friends and family I won’t list, and my former, much-missed friend and colleague Peter Boughton.

6. What do you think Chester does well as a city?

Throughout history, the people of Chester have displayed good sense, ingenuity and resilience, and I think that is still true today. Look at when the credit crunch stalled the Northgate Development – we bounced back with the award-winning Storyhouse, which cleverly incorporates a new theatre, library, café and cinema. Later this year instead of a shopping centre, the City will welcome a vibrant purpose-built indoor market. It’s great that the new logo will feature the boar of the Roman 20th legion – a tenacious, resilient animal – very fitting!

7. What can it improve on?

I am a great believer in the maxim that things can be ‘greater than the sum of the parts’. We can never do enough working together and with co-operation comes understanding, and better outcomes for everyone – so more and more working together, please!

8. What is your favourite film of all time and why

The Princess Bride – I watched it as a child, then as a student and we still enjoy it as a family now. Because Inigo Montoya can teach us a lot about honour and determination, and because I love happy endings.

9. Tell us an interesting fact about the museum

The Grosvenor Museum has 56 different floor levels – it makes exhibition planning and moving anything around an interesting challenge.

10. If you could time travel, when/where would you go ?

Deva – Roman Chester

11. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Slow down and enjoy life! I love my job and work really hard but lockdown has given me a welcome opportunity to focus more on my family and friends and now I like to try and keep a healthy balance.

12. Name a famous person you have met

Kate Moss, Jack Whitehall and Nigel Havers – all at the same time at The Wolsley, London.

13. Which other museums do you enjoy visiting ?

My current favourites are The Hunterian (Royal College of Surgeons Museum in London), Royal Armouries in Leeds and Colchester Castle.

14. What is your favourite place in the borough ?

Helsby and Frodsham hills

15. what do you do to relax ?

Run – lots and a long way

16. what would you sing on karaoke night ?

‘Don’t Stop Me Now’- Queen

17. Who would play you in the movie of your life?

Had she still been alive, it would have had to be Elizabeth Montgomery! Renee Zellweger now, I think.

18. Which person living or dead would you take for an independent coffee or drink ?

Historian and TV celebrity, Lucy Worsley

19. If you could choose one super power what would it be


20. Where would you like to see Chester in 5 years time?

Well, it would be nice to find something stunning on one of the Museum’s archaeological digs. But failing that it would be great if more money was available to celebrate Chester’s history – and I don’t necessarily mean in the museum or that it has to be about the Romans. I’d love to see exhibitions in the Museum triggering City-wide events. For instance, an annual fortnight where we celebrate all things silver in Chester, to acknowledge its fascinating millennia-long history and its influence on our glittering city.

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