Episode 5 – Iain Watson

Iain Wheeldon & Iain Watson at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle

Notes on Cultural Peeps Podcast Episode 5: Iain Watson

Welcome to Episode 5 of the Cultural Peeps Podcast. This Episode was recorded at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle,. My guest today was the Director of Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives; Iain Watson.

We started the conversation with a discussion around Iain’s current role as Director, during which I asked him how he defines himself. The are similarities between the answer given by Iain and the answer given by Bill Griffiths back in Episode 1. Whereas Bill answered as an ‘Archaeologist’, Iain answers the questions with the term ‘Historian’, and goes on to say that our past is our clue to learning about the future – a really interesting response and reflects his connection with areas of interest that initially motivated him to pursue a career in the Museum sector.

There are some interesting discussions here around the terms Curator, Editor and Producer – and how terminology in the sector is always changing and can be interpreted very differently depending on the organisation you work in and the context you find yourself in as a professional.

Iain goes on to talks about his early interests in both Science and the Humanities and how he struggled to reconcile these duel interests through the subject options systems that were available in schools at the time.

We also talk about his initial interest in Archaeology and Scientific Analysis. This ismsomething which led to one of his first roles – a research position at Durham University focusing on the thermoluminescence dating of quartz in pottery.

Iain then went on to undertake a PGCE before starting to combine tall of these different interests and skills as he moved into a role at Wallsend Heritage Centre.

The next role saw Iain working in Durham as the Studies Manager of 20 local libraries, 4 Museums and the County Archaeology Service before applying for the post as Senior Curator of what was then the Hancock Museum – now the Great North Museum.

Iain was seconded from the Hancock Museum to Newcastle University to prepare the first stages of the £8.75 million Heritage Lottery Bid (HLF) to redevelop the Museum before becoming first the Assistant Director and then the Director of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums.

We end the conversation with a discussion around the challenges that face the Museum sector in the future – where Iain places the impact of sites and organisations within a Global Context – something which makes for fascinating listening.

A quick note about this Podcast – I had a really sore throat during the recording of this Episode, so please excuse my ‘croakiness’ throughout, and thanks to Iain for being so understanding.

Hope you enjoy the Episode and find it useful.

For further information about Iain Watson, please visit:

Iain Watson on Twitter:

Iain Watson on Linked In

Links to Podcast content:

Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums:

Nick Serota:

Neil MacGregor:

ThermoLumincence Dating:

PGCE (Teaching Qualification):


Durham Libraries:

Durham Archaeology:

Durham Museums and Galleries:

Great North Museum:

North East ready for grand opening of “astounding” Great North Museum:

Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums:

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