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Roger Watson to retire from Lacock's Fox Talbot Museum

Roger Watson, curator of the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock, is to retire at the end of this month. In a Facebook post to friends he said: 'After 20 years at the Fox Talbot Museum it seems the right time to go. I leave with so many great memories. This has been the most significant portion of my career and I’ve enjoyed it so much. The best memories were my talks with the artists, working out plans for their exhibitions, and then to see it come to fruition on the walls. There is so much more I’d like to do. I still have a long list of artists I would have liked to work with, so many exhibitions that would have been fun to create.'

Watson's imminent departure comes as the Fox Talbot Museum and Abbey grounds re-open to the public after lockdown and the National Trust, which owns the Abbey, museum and village, weathers a storm around proposed changes to its public remit. Specialist jobs and the way it presents its properties and collections to the public are under threat.     

Roger Watson was born in rural Tennessee and received a BA in Communications and later a Fine Arts degree in Photographic Arts from Michigan State University, where he first encountered the history of photography. He began his museum career at the Kresge Art Museum. After several years of consulting work with various private and institutional collections he returned to the museum world working at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York under the direction of Grant Romer, a world authority on the history of early photography. During his time there Roger curated several exhibitions, wrote numerous articles for photo history journals and helped create the Historic Process Workshops which revived 19th century photographic practices.

He joined the Fox Talbot Museum in 2000, originally to catalogue the archive of images and manuscript material left by William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the inventors of photography, He was also appointed Corresponding Editor for the Talbot letters project based first at University of Glasgow and now at De Montfort University. In 2007 he was appointed curator of the museum and has overseen the revival of the museum’s exhibition program and brought the Historic Process Workshops to a new home in Lacock. His book Capturing the Light – The Birth of Photography (with Helen Rappaport) which examined Talbot and Daguerre was published in 2013.

Image: © Michael Pritchard

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Comment by Kevin Hunt on September 17, 2020 at 16:57

I am so sorry to learn this news about Roger. In the five years I have been a Volunteer at Lacock and have known him, I have always learned something new and interesting about things photographic and also enjoyed his many and varied exhibitions. He is a great loss to the NT and will be sorely missed.

Comment by Graham Harrison on September 14, 2020 at 14:04

Dear Roger, thank you for your commitment to the history of our medium and for all your work at the FTM and beyond. Wishing you a very happy retirement and thank you again! Graham

Comment by Anne Strathie on September 14, 2020 at 8:49

Sorry to hear this news - I've visited the museum on several occasions, enjoyed and learned from Capturing the Light and enjoyed a conversation with Roger about photographer Herbert Ponting who came from and photographed in Wiltshire. He will be much missed but hopefully has many exciting projects ahead of him.

Comment by Sarah Peacock on September 14, 2020 at 8:05
The Fox Talbot Museum won’t be the same without Roger! It has been a pleasure to work with him for the past 16 years, especially his kind and wise support of me right at the start of my photographic conservation career - it made all the difference to a green recent graduate!

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