Bob Burn-Murdoch, historian, writer and former Curator of the Norris Museum in St Ives
Bob Burn-Murdoch was born and raised in Cambridge but thinks of St. Ives as his home. Educated at the University of North Wales, where he read History and Archaeology, he enjoyed his time at university immensely and puts his interest in history down to the teaching abilities of John Tanfield, his old tutor at school.
Joining the museum service at the Archaeology Museum of the University of Cambridge until 1980 when he moved to St Ives to become Curator of the Norris Museum in the Broadway.
Bob has two brothers, Mick who is Chairman and a founder member of the Guild of Independent Function Point Analysts (Computers, for those not in the know) and Richard, who was Lecturer in Physiology at King’s College London.
Bob’s life revolves around the museum and all that it contains, when asked what he’s interested in you get the answer "What I’m doing" and when asked what would he like to do? - "What I’m going to do next". He gets great satisfaction from his job which ranges from making the displays for the museum, talking to visitors, helping budding authors, to writing himself the many pamphlets and historical guide books concerning the local area. Twice a year Bob acts as Editor for "The Bridge" an information booklet published by the town council and circulated to every home in the town. If you push him for an answer to his other interests he tells you it’s good food, wine and a passion for Belgian Beer!, but he could be partial to a drop of whisky (people who owe him favours please take note!). You get the feeling that eating and drinking is only mentioned as a necessary interruption to his work. With regard to membership of other clubs or societies he lists the Huntingdonshire History Society, which stands to reason really!
Anyone who has read anything printed in the last 20 years about St. Ives and the local area will find Bob mentioned somewhere in the text. He guards with enthusiasm the history and ancient artefacts belonging to the town and with every effort endeavours to improve the collection and then spends the rest of his time trying to make this information available to anyone who has the time to look or listen. The current project is an exhibition of local photography, some elements of which have already been held in the museum this year. The exhibition will culminate in a huge show over Saturday and Sunday, 16th and 17th September in the Free Church.
I asked him what his favourite exhibit or project was and his answer was "the current one" or perhaps "the next one", but what about favourite historical person "all of them, they are what we are and what history is all about". When it comes to a particular period of interest he specialises in the Roman Britain, but this is possibly due to his interest in Archaeology.
He loves the Norris Museum buildings, as do many others, and thinks it’s just about the right size because it makes him actively manage the space to get the best from it. With help from the Friends of the Norris Museum he holds numerous talks and demonstrations outside "office hours" to raise money for the museum and in all the twenty years he has served the town has never once asked for overtime to be paid. He considers this work to be "all just part of the job"
Bob’s only wish is that he can spend the remaining years of his working life at the Norris, serving the people of the town of St. Ives, let’s hope his wish comes true.
We conclude with a quote from the acknowledgements in the book 'St Ives - Slepe by the Ouse' (ISBN 0 9515298 0 3) by Noel Hudson...
"Finally I must confess this book would never have been researched and written in the allotted time were it not for Bob Burn-Murdoch. Not only did he contribute material to the second chapter, but throughout the year he bore with limitless patience endless interruptions to his daily work. He encouraged, guided and helped me in innumerable ways. His help was invaluable."