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curator, academic and museum consultant
Len Pole worked as Assistant Curator of Ethnography at the Horniman Museum from September 1966 to June 1971. He now works as a museum consultant on ethnographic collections (www.lenpole.com).

After having curated numerous exhibitions at the Horniman Museum including ‘Crafts of Nigeria’ (1967), ‘Hadza of East Africa’ (1968) and ‘Masks of the World’ (1970), Len Pole moved to Ghana. He was employed as Assistant Keeper at the Ghana National Museum in Accra from 1971-1974.He returned to England in 1974 and served as curator of the Saffron Walden Museum until 1996. Here Len Pole worked on the development of the permanent displays such as ‘Worlds of Man’ (1983), ‘Town and Country’ (1991) and ‘The Earth Beneath Your Feet ‘(1993). Whilst working at Saffron Walden he occasionally gave lectures at University College London, Institute of West African Studies, University of Birmingham and University of Cambridge (1975-1985).

In 1996 Pole was employed by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter as Curator of Ethnography. He managed the development of the World Cultures galleries which opened in June 1999. He continued his work at this museum until 2005, and in 2002 he was given the role of Collections and Interpretation Officer. In the latter function he created a photofile database accessible to the public. In 2005 he curated the ‘Black Red & Gold: Metal Working in Africa’ exhibition.

From 2008 to 2009 Len Pole returned to Saffron Walden Museum as a Monument Fellow. His work focused on increasing the profile of the world cultures collections enabling their use in education and outreach.

From 1990 until the present Len Pole simultaneously worked as a freelancer on numerous ethnographic projects. He produced ethnographic surveys, including one for all museums with ethnographic material in the South-West of England (1998-2000). Additionally, he managed a Subject Specialist Network development programme for the Museum Ethnographers Group (www.museumethnographersgroup.org.uk). He chaired the Group from 1978-1980 and again from 1999-2002, and was a member of its Committee from 1999 to 2006.

Other recent projects include the curation of the World Cultures gallery in the new Great North Museum in Newcastle (2006-2009), the new Explorers Gallery at Torquay Museum (2004-2007) and the co-curation of the ‘Human Cargo’ exhibition in Plymouth Museum (2007). Pole additionally served as a Curatorial Consultant for the West Africa section of the ‘Breaking the Chains’ exhibition at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol (2007), and was involved in the ‘Effective Collections’ project which sought to improve the use of World Cultures collections in five East Anglian museums (2013). In 2014-15 he worked on a collections review project in five museums in the south-east, at Bexhill, Hastings, Horsham, Maidstone and the Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington .

2018 projects include working with Museums Worcestershire on identifying items in their ethnographic collections, as part of the West Midlands Expert Eye project and providing further information on African items in the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery collections.

Len Pole has published numerous books and articles since 1973, among which are ‘CARGO: Excavating the Contemporary Legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Plymouth and Devon’ (2011), and ‘Second Skin: Everyday and Sacred Uses of Bark Worldwide’ (2004).


curator, academic and museum consultant
Further reading