I wrote this article for the Museums Association Museum Practice magazine in September 2012. The link to the article is here, but unfortunately although I wrote the article for free it remains behind a paywall so I thought I would air it here.
Heritage science is a relatively new discipline – University College London began teaching the first course in 2011 as a master’s of research, so the four pioneering students (including myself) have finished the teaching side of the course and are now working on individual research projects on which our dissertations will be based. Two of us are already working for heritage organisations.
Taking on a master’s of research in heritage science is a big task especially since this subject is so interdisciplinary; it is about where geology and heritage meet, presenting an interesting and continually challenging environment to study in.
The heritage science domain is a highly interdisciplinary field and allows for a wide range of interests to be catered for. As students you meet a vast number of people that can help you along your way and improve communication skills with all types of professions, from artists to curators and conservators to engineers.
I believe one of the key skills for working in such a highly interdisciplinary sector is being able to communicate with this wide range of personalities and disciplines, and to learn how best to communicate and synchronise ideas.
The heritage field is constantly evolving, and in a sector with so many innovative ideas and yet so small budgets, the best strategy for future students is to “be prepared”.
The state of the sector’s economic affairs means that there is high competition for jobs. Having talked to fellow students of conservation, it appears that every job opening or even unpaid internship is a rush for the finish line.
With two students already engaged and our vastly differing fields of expertise, there will be little competition between the four students on my course – but this does not mean it will be easy to secure a future in the heritage sector.
My experience with the course has taught me a lot about the heritage sector, and although I went into the course with dreams of being a curator in a geological museum and now want to work with outdoor heritage, this shift in ambition is not due to any failing as part of the course (although I wouldn’t turn down an offer to be a curator).
If anything, it has opened my eyes to the wide selection of avenues I can go down within the heritage sector and allowed me to develop new and exciting ideas for future research projects and career paths.
My ambition would be to continue to work within the heritage sector but take a step back from collaborating only with museums and extend this to the outdoors, looking at cultural landscapes and our natural heritage.
My fellow students and I have realised the importance of engaging with heritage professionals and organisations from an early stage in order to realise our ambitions.
For me, becoming a member of the Museums Association was one of the first steps, as well as a member of the Institute of Conservation. My research project also involves collaboration with as many professional societies associated with my field as possible.
I would highly recommend this approach to anyone looking to enter the heritage sector, as even if job opportunities do not abound you will find you learn much more about your subject and other, new and exciting aspects of heritage you never even knew existed.