30 Under 30: Laura Bauld

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Laura Bauld, 27, Glasgow

Laura Bauld is a brilliantly talented curator with Glasgow Museums, and she really embodies what it means to be a modern museum professional – not a smartypants, not a lecturer, but someone who shares knowledge passionately and generously. She’s a knowledgeable historian, who cut her teeth in the museum world as a gallery assistant and volunteer, engaging people of all ages in local, social and art history in a way that makes sense to them.  

Laura recognizes that museums are not just places for learning, but also social places, where people come to have fun and engage with one another. She is also passionate about a museum playing a role of an activist and taking a stand on issues of human rights and social justice. She works relentlessly on making sure that museums represent people who have been marginalized in the past or whose histories are considered to be hidden –  LGBTQ community and BME community. She’s also really interested in women’s history, or herstory (preach!) 

Laura has initiated successful projects for people experiencing mental health issues, supported older volunteers to gain confidence engaging with young people, starred on STV and BBC Radio Scotland speaking passionately and eloquently about collections and the historic past, and ensured that this year, for the first time ever, Pride Glasgow had a formal Glasgow Museums’ presence (Museum Pride – Long Live Queen James!) so that LGBTQI people in the city know that their heritage is not a marginal interest, all while getting on with the day job of Project Curator for a major museum refurbishment.  

Laura is exactly what the museum sector needs – a passionate kickass woman on a mission to represent those who have not always had a voice. The next Mary Beard?  


What’s your proudest achievement?

I have organised for Glasgow Museums to take part in Glasgow Pride. We had a stall there, but we also marched in the parade. We took with us pictures of objects that relate to LGBTQ narratives, and people came up to us and were really appreciative that we wanted to tell these stories. And people were sharing some really personal stories and experiences they had, and I was so glad they felt like they could do that with us. It seems like quite a small thing for an organisation to be part of something like that, but it’s the first time that Glasgow Museums had gone. And for us it was about showing our commitment to not just be telling heteronormative stories, not just male-female, but also same sex desire and non-binary. For me it was also a way to thank all the people within Glasgow Museums who are LGBTQ, and to support them, and to show them we’re with them, and we would like to tell these stories with them and for them and also for their families and friends. I work every day in a museum, and the reason I do it is because I have this really geeky love for it, and I really want to share this joy with my family and friends, but some of them are LGBTQ, and they find it quite difficult to come to museums, because they don’t see themselves represented. So this was a way of saying “we’re going to represent you, and you’re going to be as much part of this museum as any other community”. It was a really positive and affirmative thing, and I had a great time.  I was quite proud of it. 

What women inspire you?

Is it corny to say your mum? From a very young age she took me to museums and art galleries and historic houses, and I gained this love I have now, because of her. She’s also been through two bouts of cancer, and she’s still chugging along. I can’t believe how strong she is.  

I’m also really inspired by all the women that I work with. I have never been in an organisation before where all the women support each other like this. It’s been really illuminating and inspiring. Our team is so close-knit, and they are all an inspiration to me.

What change would you like to see for girls and young women in Scotland in next 10 years?

I have two things that I would like to see. I would like for girls and young women in Scotland to be able to just go out at any time of the day, and not feel that they might be harassed or attacked. I think there is a real problem with the rape culture in Scotland and UK as a whole, and I would really like to see that tackled more. I lived in Glasgow my whole life, but sometimes I feel intimidated to walk home at night, and that shouldn’t be the case.  

The other thing that I would like to see in 10 years’ time, would be for some who is my age then not to be taken at age value. I find it sometimes, because I’m seen to be young, that I’m kind of pushed aside or considered not experienced enough, and I think you should take someone for the opportunities and the knowledge they bring rather than just looking at how old or young they are. It doesn’t matter how young a person is, they can be still as valuable as a person who has been there for 50 years.  

What can we do to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all?

For me the way to shatter the glass ceiling is to stop using the phrase the glass ceiling. I have never used it in my entire life about my working experience. I understand that glass ceiling can be used to describe physical inequalities, in terms of pay, working opportunities, and other conditions. But for me the glass ceiling is totally something, which is a psychological barrier, and I’ve never heard another woman to use the phrase glass ceiling. I would never use it for another woman either. For me it’s something that is used by patriarchy to keep us down. I feel that in order to tackle it we need to stop using it. Stop letting it have power over us. It’s sort of like Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, the more you say it the more powerful it gets. I’ve never felt that I had a glass ceiling, I hope no one else has, I understand that people might do, but the more we give it power, the more it has power over us. We need to stop using it as phrase and accept that women are strong and equal to men.  

What 3 women (past or present, real or fictional) would you invite to your dream dinner party/picnic?

My first person that I would invite is a woman called Mary Barbour. She was around at the turn of the twentieth century in Glasgow, and she was one of the women who led Glasgow rent strike in 1915. In 1914 when the war started, the landlords increased the rent on all their tenements, because lots of workers were flooding in to work in munition factories and shipyards, and they took advantage of all the women who were left alone while their husbands were at the front, forcing them to use their wages on rent. Mary Barbour and bunch of other women who run the Glasgow Housing Association rallied together to fight these rent increases. They did things like having women in position in tenements, so if they saw bailiff coming they would ring a bell, and all the women would gather and throw flower bombs at the bailiff to scare him away. They also did this amazing thing, I’d have loved to have seen this in real life, when Mary Barbour found out that one of the women had actually paid her rent increase after the housing factor had told her that everyone else had paid it, she was absolutely enraged by this, and got the woman that paid the rent increase, and got all these men from the shipyard to march with her to the house factor’s office, and they stood outside and made him pay back the money. And the image of this woman Mary Barbour just standing there with all the men behind her, she must have been so formidable to have these guys rally behind her, so I think she must have been an absolutely incredible woman. 

My second person would be an eighteenth century actress called Kitty Clive. She was on London stage in eighteenth century, she was in some of the biggest plays at the time, but she was also an activist. She published pamphlets and newspaper articles, basically tearing the theatre managers apart when they took away her roles or when they decreased her wages, she fought for her legal rights as an actress. Today we hear Jennifer Lawrence and Angelina Jolie talking about inequalities, but this was happening back in the eighteenth century, and Kitty was one of the first people to talk about it. She was also a bit of a diva, quite fabulous, so it would be amazing to be able to have a chat with her.  

And the third woman that I would invite to my fancy dinner would be Mona Lisa. But not the woman that Da Vinci painted, but the actual figure in the painting if she could talk. Because obviously she’d have seen so much throughout history. She’d been in France since the sixteenth century, but the painting was stolen in 1911 and it was gone for many years; she had acid thrown on her; she had rocks thrown at her; she now lives her life behind bulletproof glass looking at tourists all with their iPhones out. She basically had seen centuries go by, and it would be amazing to see what she thought about herself as this sort of icon.

What would your message be for girls and young women in Scotland?

My message would be to be ambitious and to be ballsy. I think these two words come with such negative connotations, “we don’t want that, she’s such an ambitious woman”, and it’s seen in such a bad light. But for me to have ambition is one of the most powerful things, to have dreams, to strive for them, to keep going, to be inspired, and to be challenged. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be ambitious, and to reach for your goals. So I’d say not to be frightened of that word. If anyone says “oh no, we don’t want to have an ambitious girl or ambitious woman in our organisation” then it’s not the organisation for you. 

Find Laura on Twitter @LaLaBauldie

Pictures courtesy of Laura Bauld

You can see the full list of our amazing 30 Under 30 2017 finalists here, and keep a look out on the blog as we feature  a different finalist every day throughout November.

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