On Tuesday 21 May 2013, Mrs Gwen Yarker, Dorset County Museum Honorary Curator was presented with a British Empire Medal by the Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Mrs Valerie Pitt-Rivers.
Gwen received her award in the 2013 New Year Honours List as a result of her voluntary services to Museums. Many friends, staff
and other volunteers came to the presentation to show their support and thank Gwen for her unique contribution to the work of the Museum over two decades.
For over twenty years Gwen Yarker has served as the Honorary Curator of Fine Art at Dorset County Museum and as a trustee of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society. She has been instrumental in fundraising to support the development of the Museum, in building links with other fine art organisations, in growing, training and leading a group of collections management volunteers, and in researching, documenting and displaying the history of the county’s artists and paintings.
In this regard Mrs Yarker’s work to raise £350,000 to acquire three portraits by George Romney detailing Thomas Rackett, one of Dorset’s earliest antiquarians and collector of one of the Museum’s foundation collections, is particularly noteworthy. So too is her singlehanded contribution to the research, coordination, writing, fundraising and management of the production of the Public Catalogue Foundation’s volume on the oil paintings of Dorset.
– Dorset County Museum Exhibition of 2011: Georgian Faces – Portrait of a County
However, perhaps Mrs Yarker’s finest achievement to date was her curatorship of the exhibition Georgian Faces: Portrait of a County held at Dorset County Museum in 2011 and authorship of an accompanying catalogue. The result of over four years work, undertaken on a completely voluntary basis, this critically acclaimed exhibition which ran for four months in early 2011, contained over 70 portraits from both national and private collections, including many never seen in public previously. It resulted in significant long-term improvements to the security and facilities of the Museum, dramatically raised its profile and standing, and attracted a large audience – helping grow the museum’s income in otherwise difficult economic circumstances.
Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum has praised Mrs Yarker’s work at the Museum, “She is an invaluable and unique resource to the Museum – we would never have acquired the Romney portraits without her, and she continues to provide help, advice and support at the highest level.” Whilst Mrs Yarker wished to keep the presentation of the award low-key, she is keen to use the event as an opportunity to publicise the Museum and the work of all the other volunteers who generously give so much of their time and expertise to the Museum’s ongoing work.