In Memoriam: Helen Pike (1965-2021)

11th May 2022
Petrie Museum

Helen Pike wearing a black top and necklace looks to the left of the camera smiling, with part of the UCL Art Museum visible behind

One of the brightest lights in UCL Culture’s museums went out when Helen Pike sadly passed away after a short illness one year ago in May 2021. We take this opportunity to mark a year since Helen’s passing, and to remember her unique talent, enthusiasm and dedication to her colleagues and to UCL.

After a successful career in the arts and cultural sector, Helen joined UCL in 2012 and spent the next nine years shining in the role of the Petrie Museum’s Public Programme Manager. Anyone who attended UCL museum events over the past nine years couldn’t fail but be inspired by Helen’s unique energy and spirit, and enthusiasm for all those who, like her, loved learning from the collections. Above all, Helen pioneered an approach to learning and engagement in museums that was energetic, exciting, and fabulously different. There was always a guarantee of a warm welcome where Helen was involved, for everyone from her army of dedicated volunteers to our many museum visitors.

Helen worked closely with Debbie Challis (Public Programme Manager) to develop a sector-leading events programme, featuring everything from a regular Petrie Film Club to a steampunk-inspired ‘Fin de siècle’ event which saw the Petrie Museum packed to the rafters with happy revellers enjoying the collections. She always found innovative and exciting ways to make the UCL collections accessible to all: from a glitzy ‘Egyptomania’ evening event, LGBTQ+ talks exploring the collection in new ways, storytelling and shadow-puppet sessions for young children, to virtual reality museum tours, Helen made everybody feel welcome and included. Helen’s dedication to the Petrie Museum in particular is now firmly embedded in the history of the collection, and her determination to tell the stories of the women behind the collection such as Violette Lafleur and Amelia Edwards —some of which she herself rediscovered—means that they too can now be remembered.

Always professional but never too serious, Helen brought cheer and laughter to her colleagues during her time at UCL and made working in the UCL museums a wonderful experience for all those around her. She was a force for good in the museum world: always asking ‘who’s it for?’ and never afraid to try things a different way if it meant that they could be more inclusive and exciting. Meetings with Helen were always collaborative and fun, and everyone at the table would leave buzzing with possibilities. She worked most effectively with colourful pens, post-its and huge pieces of paper tacked to walls where everyone could share their ideas. Helen’s vast network of colleagues and friends across UCL and beyond, many of whom had the pleasure of attending such meetings, is testament to her infectious enthusiasm for sharing the collections, and her determination to spark progressive change through making new connections.

We continue to see Helen’s legacy every day: in the new intake of museum volunteers, in the sparks we see when visitors learn from the collections, and in so many other ways. These wonderful legacies will live on at UCL, particularly in the UCL museums, where Helen will be forever remembered as our fiercely intelligent, hilariously funny, and impossibly glamorous friend.

Helen’s friends and colleagues in UCL Culture

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