Elizabeth Henderson, 60, has retired from her position as Museums Development Officer at West Lothian Heritage Services after almost 20 years of service.
Staff at the museums service have paid tribute to Ms Henderson’s remarkable skill in her role, while the body of volunteers who work at West Lothian Heritage praised her for her frequent guidance and good management.
Born in Ayrshire, Ms Henderson began her career in West Lothian as a German and Religious Education school teacher at Blackburn Academy in 1980. Illness almost led to her early retirement, but instead Elizabeth found herself redeployed to the West Lothian Museums Service in 1988.
She worked with the first Museums Officer, Alison Cutforth, before going on to job share with her successor, Sarah Vince in 2002. During that year, Ms Henderson earned her professional museums qualification after a period of part-time study.
In 2007 she became the full-time museums development officer with full responsibility for museum collections and the creation of exhibitions. One prominent exhibition Ms Henderson recalls was West Lothian and the Forgotten War, which has helped sustain the memories of those who served in Korea, many of whom came from West Lothian.
Ms Henderson said that despite the scarcity of grand or valuable ancient objects held by West Lothian Museums, the value of their relatively small objects lies in the story that they tell of the people of West Lothian. As museums development officer she has contributed to recording and telling the social and industrial history of West Lothian and its people. For example, silk railway-society banners offer an insight into the role of industrial societies as social security providers before the advent of the welfare state.
Ms Henderson was a key contributor to West Lothian Museums’ outreach work with schoolchildren and the elderly, through the establishment of the West Lothian Reminiscence and Oral History Network in 2011. The network allows education and social services to benefit from the use of museum resources to explore local histories. Ms Henderson has helped school pupils tackle their curriculum by learning with historical artefacts, and also given elderly residents the opportunity to recollect their pasts through “objects for reminiscence”.
She has worked hard to categorise and identify these objects, often starting with boxes of unnamed items, but has left the museums service with a legacy of artefacts carefully categorised according to their chronology or theme.
Ms Henderson retired in January this year and lives in Livingston with her husband. She is now planning to volunteer with the Reminiscence and Oral History Network.