Annette Faux, LMB Archivist for over 20 years, died on Monday 9th October 2023, aged 57. Annette was dedicated to the LMB and was truly passionate about preserving and sharing the Laboratory’s history. A problem-solver by nature, Annette never faltered in offering advice and support, going above and beyond to help members of the LMB even outside of archival duties.
“Annette has been a well-loved and respected and truly outstanding member of the LMB. Her impressive knowledge and precision have been known to many. I have also been privileged to work closely with her on a number of very successful projects that showed that it was her humanity and her ability to connect with people that made her special” said Jan Löwe, Director of the LMB.
Annette devoted her entire career to information and library services – a field which perfectly suited her inquisitive personality and eagerness to help people. Beginning as a book fetcher at Cambridge University Library (UL), she later took up roles in the reference library and the photography department. She carried an enthusiasm for discovering and cataloguing photos throughout the rest of her life, although this did not stretch to a desire to feature in photographs herself. After five years at the UL, she moved to the Cambridgeshire Collection, the local studies library in Cambridge Central Library. After three years, she then completed a degree in Information and Library Studies at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (now Aberystwyth University), before taking up a position as Assistant Librarian at the University of Cambridge’s Biochemistry Department.
Recruited by then-Director Richard Henderson, Annette joined the LMB as the Laboratory’s first full-time Archivist in 2001. She inherited a reasonably-sized, though disorganised collection of material, which was kept in a variety of locations in the old LMB building, including the basement where it risked damp damage. The cataloguing and growth of the LMB Archive into a valuable resource both internally and externally (with enquiries and requests from all over the world) is a true testament to Annette’s persistence and innate ability for organisation. This extended beyond the Archive collection; a recent routine inspection resulted in a Health and Safety advisor commenting that they’d never seen a tidier desk at the LMB than hers.
Annette was the go-to font of knowledge for anyone wishing to learn more about the LMB’s history. She delighted in any opportunity for lengthy conversations with Lab members, both past and present, to learn more about the LMB. Even years later, she would be able to recall a precise detail or interesting anecdote she’d picked up. She was particularly close to Mike Fuller, even though he was officially “retired” by the time Annette arrived at the LMB, and they frequently and happily discussed his 50+ years at the Laboratory.
In 2010 Annette was joined in the Archive by Teresa Wallman. The pair became fast friends, bonding over their shared passion for music and could often be found in the Archive listening to BBC Radio 2, pausing work at 10:30AM each morning to test their knowledge in PopMaster (as an avid music collector all her life Annette was an impressive player, though Teresa’s extensive knowledge of the 1950s and 1960s left the pair pretty evenly matched).
Her attention to detail and thoroughness made Annette well-suited to event planning, something that was quickly apparent after she joined the LMB when she was enlisted to help plan a large event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the publication of the structure of DNA. Since that event in 2003, Annette has been instrumental in planning countless symposia, memorial meetings, public open days and other events. This included the LMB Alumni Symposium in 2014, a two-day event attended by almost 600 past and current members of the LMB. These events provided Annette with the perfect opportunity to catch up with LMB alumni with whom she had built close relationships with throughout the years. She once remarked that the opportunity to host alumni at LMB events was like “welcoming back old friends.”
Annette’s aptitude for event organising was again crucial to the Royal Opening of the new LMB building in 2013, when Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip visited and toured the laboratory. Aside from planning the event (and keeping details of the royal presence secret until it was officially announced), Annette prepared an archive display of interesting objects showing the LMB’s history, and presented these to Her Majesty. She didn’t have time to relax after the event, as the display was promptly overrun with interested lab members, who were particularly enticed by John Kendrew’s Nobel Prize medal.
When establishing the Archive, Richard Henderson was keen that it be used to proactively capture the history of the LMB. As part of this, Annette has been heavily involved in the production of numerous books about the LMB and its scientists. First, she worked with John Finch, fact-checking, sourcing over 250 photos, and helping to publish his book, ‘A Nobel Fellow on Every Floor.’ Following publication, she helped arrange a book launch and sent copies of the book to alumni all over the world. Annette repeated this success twice more, with Hugh Huxley to produce ‘Memories and Consequences: Visiting Scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge’ and with Kathy Weston on ‘Ahead of the Curve: Women Scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.’ These books are well-loved by members of the LMB community, and their success is in no small part due to Annette’s hard work.
A skilled writer herself, Annette also helped publicise research breakthroughs and news from the lab, crafting engaging stories for the LMB website as a member of the News Team. She was on hand for the announcement of five of the LMB’s Nobel Prizes, helping to quickly prepare a news article, deal with the large influx of reporters and press enquiries, and deservedly celebrating afterwards at the traditional LMB Nobel Party (though keeping her ever-present Archive hat on to make sure signed champagne bottles and anything else interesting were kept aside for the LMB collection).
Away from the Archive, Annette had long been a keen and adept crafter. She had great skill at using needlepoint, knitting, cross stitch and more to produce beautiful works of art. Many in the Lab can count themselves lucky to receive one of Annette’s homemade cards, made with a huge amount of care and precision. For many years, Annette helped organise the LMB’s annual Arts and Crafts show, brightening up the atrium with an array of handmade items. She was an active member of the LMB’s Craft and Chatter club and hugely enjoyed the opportunity to spend a lunchtime comparing projects and offering advice to anyone with a crafting problem. Every December, Annette could be counted on to aid the LMB’s annual charity fundraising by assisting with the Craft and Chatter Christmas sale – both in providing crafts for sale, and in running the stall. She also supported the organisation of the annual Christmas charity raffle.
Outside of work, Annette was an active ten-pin bowler and played in amateur leagues for over 15 years. She loved day trips with friends and family, especially ones with opportunities to explore an old local church or – her favourite – lighthouses.
Turner and Son funeral directions (search ‘Annette Faux’ at bottom of webpage for more details)
Behind the scenes: Annette Faux and the LMB Archive