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Science Museum acquires portrait of trust’s mortuary manager

Posted: 28 February 2021

Picture of a portrait of mortuary manager Katie Tomkins by Roxana Halls
Portrait of mortuary manager Katie Tomkins
by Roxana Halls

A portrait of the trust’s mortuary manager, Katie Tomkins, has been acquired by the Science Museum Group Collection. The portrait, by acclaimed artist Roxana Halls, was created as part of the Portraits for NHS Heroes project during the pandemic and originally shared on Instagram by artist Tom Croft.

During the first national lockdown, Croft realised that sharing portraits of NHS workers would be one way to raise their status, say thank you, and immortalise their work for future generations. Katie was nominated in recognition of her outstanding leadership through the pandemic. Over 13,000 paintings were created by artists around the world for the project.

The Science Museum Group selected the painting of Katie to join its COVID-19 Collecting Project. The project captures objects which provide an insight into the medical and scientific advancements of the last two years, but also a sense of the emotional impact of the pandemic.

Katie has over 20 years’ experience working in mortuary and post-mortem services and, as the manager of the service based at Watford General and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, she had a huge responsibility to the growing numbers of people who had died, their loved ones and to her team.

Katie said: "When I look at Roxana’s painting, I see someone who’s exhausted, slightly burned out, but determined to get the job done. That’s exactly how I felt."

Selina Hurley, curator of medicine at the Science Museum, said: "I’m delighted that we have acquired this beautiful and haunting artwork. Traditionally portraits have been commissioned to capture the likeness of an illustrious patron, but Halls’ portrait of Katie captures the work of a team often forgotten about, mortuary services and the key role they play. While we just get a snapshot of Katie, her determination, pride and empathy shine through in this colourful, uplifting painting, where Halls introduces us to the person behind the PPE."

Read more about Katie’s story here.

If Katie’s portrait has inspired you to recognise the work of NHS staff during the pandemic, please support the Covid appeal, run by Raise, the West Herts Hospitals Charity. Funds raised from this appeal will provide staff support in terms of equipment, comfort and much more. Visit or call 07435 802862.

Roxana Halls was the first artist to feature in the BBC’s series ‘Extraordinary Portraits’ which aired on Sunday 27 February 2022 and is available on iPlayer for a year.

Notes to editors

About the COVID-19 Collecting Project

Since the pandemic began, curators across the Science Museum Group have sensitively identified and begun acquiring important items for the Science Museum Group Collection as part of its significant COVID-19 Collecting Project. These items provide a permanent record for future generations of medical, scientific, cultural and personal responses to the outbreak and chronicle its impact on society.

Items joining the Science Museum Group Collection include historic empty vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines which were used to administer the first worldwide mass vaccinations (kindly donated by the NHS), signage from the Government’s daily briefings, prototype ventilators and other medical devices, COVID-19 testing kits, coronavirus-themed greetings cards, homemade masks, hand sanitiser dispensers from the transport network, supermarket signage, a wooden spoon broken banging a saucepan during the weekly clap for carers, ephemera such as newspaper front pages and now-postponed wedding invitations and a range of national and international artworks.

  1. For more information, please contact the communications team on: 01923 436280 or email: For out of hours media enquiries please call the Watford General Hospital switchboard on 01923 244366 and ask for the on call communications manager.
  2. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust serves people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three hospitals; Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead. The trust has a catchment area of over 500,000 people and is one of the largest employers locally, with around 5,000 staff and volunteers.
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