In Your Shoes - Matthew Moran

Matthew is Museum Manager at HMS Unicorn, Scotland’s Oldest Ship.

Matthew is currently a Trustee for Museums Galleries Scotland, Chair of the subject specialist network STICK (Scottish Transport and Industry Collections Knowledge Network) helping to connect collections and their custodians, a Museum Association Representative for Scotland, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland.


We’ve moved to summer hours so the ship is now open to the public six days a week! – Monday is my admin day while we are closed, so I crack on with the accounting and banking for the previous week and catch up on the emails that have piled up over the weekend.

I finish up writing a funding application for bursaries for school buses to the museum – I usually aim for 2 applications a month – and send off a few invoices.

There are a few Ops things to catch up with, nitty-gritty minor repairs, and I spend some time catching up with our new Exhibitions Intern to make sure he is progressing well (he is!).

The day passes by quickly thanks to the buildup of tasks over the weekend.


I get one of our Museum Assistants, who we took on as a Kickstart Trainee, onboard as a member of staff since her placement finished – the lovely folks at Discover Opportunities get us on the Discover  Scheme to contribute to her wages – this is a great incentive and help to a small charity like us.

Neil, who works for the Story Trails project comes along for an interview and to take some images and 3D scans of the ship for a national storytelling experience, which sounds exciting, before I spend some time with one of our volunteers working with our collections, explaining the proper use of our database and the different information standards we stick to onboard Unicorn. Unicorn is reliant on volunteers to achieve many of our museum outputs, and so a large chunk of my time is dedicated to them each week.


Following a meeting with our consultant fundraiser the previous week, I start on a proposal for expanding our staff and slightly re-arranging our staff structure. It’s a big piece of work and takes up most of the day, but it’s exciting to think how the charity is growing and achieving more of its goals week by week. We receive the final copy of a report of a project that we did with Museums Galleries Scotland and Craigowl Primary School, and am encouraged by the measurable effect our learning and outreach sessions can have on children – and how that is being recognised outside of our organisation. I spend some time looking for joiners to expand our offices – we will need the extra space if we get more staff!

Our Easter Holiday event for kids runs onboard the ship, with lots of happy wee voices with great feed


Our community consultation that was launched a fortnight ago has taken off on social media  – hundreds, at this point thousands, of people have expressed their thoughts on what the future of HMS Unicorn should look like, and it’s heartening to see that people care so much for Scotland’s oldest ship. To capitalise on this, I get in touch with the Courier to ask if they would be willing to run a piece on the consultation and get it to more people who don’t necessarily use social media. Evidencing community consultation is key to successful grant applications that deliver useful results,  and the data we get will guide what the Unicorn Preservation Society delivers over the next few years.


Now that we’re in the summer season and I have a few more staff, I take the opportunity to work from home – for the first time in months. Working from home is a rare opportunity to get work done without distractions. Onboard the ship you’re very accessible to visitors, volunteers, staff, and so you don’t really have any control over 'office hours'. If someone wants to talk to you, they just walk in. Most of the time this keeps things interesting and adds variety to the day but sometimes you’d rather be working on whatever it is that has a deadline that day!

Today was spent writing an application to Dundee’s Common Good Fund. Grant writing is a huge part of my job and every grant application is different – some take an afternoon, some can take weeks. This one was a fairly easy one but still took all morning to get just right. In the afternoon I wrap up some work on the museum’s policy and planning documents, bundling about 20 new policies together for approval by a subcommittee of the trustees. There’s a relief at finally getting some of them finished, and a great note to finish the week.