Smithsonian curator to lead St Andrews museums

Tuesday 16 April 2019


The University of St Andrews has appointed a new Director of Museums to take the lead on a significant period of expansion and transformation for its galleries and collections.

Dr Catherine Eagleton, who is currently Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in the United States, will be responsible for the significant collections held by the 600-year-old University as well as managing its two accredited museums, the University Museum (MUSA) and the Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History.

Dr Eagleton said: “I was attracted to the position of Director of Museums at the University of St Andrews by its extraordinary collections and world-leading research. I look forward to sharing them with visitors at an extended and redisplayed University Museum from 2020.

“I am excited by the opportunity to draw on the 600-year history of the University in order to look forward, to develop ambitious exhibitions and digital projects, expand research and teaching at the museums, and in due course to reimagine the Bell Pettigrew Museum which has remained in its largely original state since it was founded.”

Dr Eagleton has previously held positions at the British Museum in London, and as Head of Asian and African Collections at the British Library. She began her career at the Science Museum in London, and at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, University of Cambridge, where she completed a PhD in the History of Science.

Her new role will include leading the curatorial, learning and access, and operations teams of the University’s Museums Collections Unit. She will be responsible for creating a new events programme, opening up collections to visitors and researchers in new ways, and better providing for the needs of students, researchers and the local community, as well as national and international visitors.

St Andrews’ Assistant Vice-Principal Collections, Dr Katie Stevenson, said: “Catherine brings extraordinary passion for the areas where our University collections are strongest, especially our historic scientific instruments which are Recognised Collections of National Significance.

“Catherine is a talented museums leader and the University looks forward to offering a significantly improved museums service as we work to our new strategic themes of world-leading, diverse, entrepreneurial and global.”

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex with 19 museums and the National Zoo, established in 1846 with funds from Englishman James Smithson who left his estate to the United States with the aim of increasing knowledge. The National Museum of American History is the nation’s premier history museum with more than 1.8 million artefacts and three shelf miles of archival collections representing the country’s heritage.

The museum collections of the University of St Andrews are a vital part of the history and heritage of Scotland’s oldest university, including the Bell Pettigrew which is a rare survivor of a Victorian zoology teaching museum featuring several extinct species.

MUSA, the flagship of the University’s museum space, is currently undergoing a significant expansion. The existing four galleries are being recast, enabling previously unseen objects to go on display for the first time. It will also feature a new gallery for hosting temporary exhibitions enabling the scope and quality of the University’s collections to be showcased in a way not previously possible.

The University has significant collections in fine and applied art, archaeology, numismatics, historic scientific instruments, ethnography, zoology, anatomy and pathology, chemistry, psychology and geology, with three of its collections designated as Recognised Collections of National Significance by Museums Galleries Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

Category University news

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