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2 minutes to read Posted on Friday January 18, 2013

Nick Poole and the comet Europeana

In the first of a series of posts introducing Europeana's Network Officers, Chair Nick Poole tells us what his day job is, why he got involved with Europeana and what makes him tick.

I am the Chief Executive Officer of the Collections Trust, a role I have held for the past 8 years. Before this, I was the Digital Policy Adviser to the national agency for Museums, Archives and Libraries, and before that I worked briefly in the corporate finance sector looking at risk in mergers and acquisitions. I hold degrees in languages, historical linguistics, fine art and illustration, and the history and philosophy of science.

The Collections Trust is an independent not-for-profit organisation based at the Natural History Museum in central London. We work with a network of around 23,000 museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage attractions worldwide to help open up their collections for use and enjoyment, both online and in the real world.

My job as CEO is to set strategy, to provide leadership and direction and to be a champion, not so much of our work, but of Collections and their value to public life. Europe’s cultural heritage organisations are responsible for documenting, interpreting and providing access to some of mankind’s greatest achievements, alongside the wonders of the natural world. I find it incredibly fulfilling to work with the people who care for this material and help others to understand it.

I am an internationalist, through and through. My favourite poem when I was a child was Robert Frost’s ‘The Tuft of Flowers’, which includes the line ‘men (and women!) work together, I told him from the heart. Whether they work together, or apart’, and I believe strongly in the idea that culture unites us across geographical, political and economic boundaries. I am excited to be part of an international professional community united by its commitment to improving people’s understanding of themselves and their responsibility to care for each other.

This is what first drew me to Europeana, as an expression of cultural unity across Europe, and what led me to stand as the Chair of the Europeana Network – a position I am proud to have held for nearly 4 years. Europeana, to me, is like a comet – what you see most is the huge achievement of bringing together so much of Europe’s heritage into a common platform. But equally important is the tremendous professional capital, the trail of knowledge, expertise and unity which follows on from the platform.

This belief in collaboration and cooperation has also led me to take on my other roles, formerly as the Chair of the UK Committee of the International Council of Museums, and most recently as Treasurer of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals here in the UK. I love to be able to make a difference, and to help support the incredibly passionate and committed people who work in this sector.

At one stage in my past, I was trained as a negotiator. This training taught me to avoid polar opposites and instead to seek common ground between parties with apparently different interests. This view - that apparently conflicting needs can be reconciled around common values - is what has led me to set out my main ambition in my role as Chair of the Network to create a Cultural Commons for Europe which reconciles the public mission of our cultural institutions with their drive for greater independent financial viability.

For many years, I have worked with both the publicly-funded and commercial sectors, and from this experience I know that there is a way of operating which plays to both their strengths. I think Europeana has a tremendous opportunity to be a catalyst to resolve decades-old differences of opinion – about copyright, business models and user needs – and I am really pleased that we have been able to make progress in these areas already.

It’s not all work, work, work, though! I live in south west London with my wife and two children, and I love spending time with them – there’s nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of a child to help to understand it better! I am a keen kayaker, making regular expeditions around the UK’s inland waterways, coastline and islands. I am also the compere of a monthly Music and Poetry Festival called Rhythm and Muse.

I am a real culture-geek, and I always love to hear from people working in the industry. I can be contacted by email at nick@collectionstrust.org.uk, twitter via @NickPoole1 or on LinkedIn – just search for my name!

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