I had always dreamed of living in the UK, so I thought it was time to do something new and chase my dreams.I was looking for a degree which combined both theory and practical learning. I was really drawn to the work experience side of this degree with internships offered in different departments at Historic Royal Palaces.
What made you choose to study for an MA in Heritage Management at Queen Mary? I was struggling to break into the industry in Australia and I had always dreamed of living in the UK, so I thought it was time to do something new and chase my dreams. I was looking for a degree which combined both theory and practical learning. I was really drawn to the work experience side of this degree with internships offered in different departments at Historic Royal Palaces (HRP).
How did you find out about the course? My Grannie saw it being advertised on her Facebook and tagged me in it. She and I shared a deep passion for history, castles and music. I did a little more research and it sounded like a really interesting new degree. I could not make it to the first year the course was offered so decided to apply the following year. Sadly, my Grannie passed away before I started, so I really owe it to her for encouraging me to 'just do it and follow my dreams.'
Had you intended to move across the world to study or was it the pull of the course that convinced you to make that move? I have always had the idea of moving to the UK, but this degree was the big push that helped convince me to make the move. I was too nervous to move without a concrete reason but going back to university was also rather daunting as I already had a master's degree. This degree was really practical and the chance to work at some of HRP's amazing palaces was too much of an opportunity to miss. Also living in London! Thankfully I was able to get a more flexible type of visa that allowed me to attend university and then get a job straight away, I was extremely lucky.
What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable? What modules did you enjoy learning about and was there anything that surprised you in your studies? My favourite aspect of this degree was the internships at Historic Royal Palaces as this gave me a fantastic glimpse into how a heritage organisation runs. I did four internships in different departments within HRP, the staff were lovely and really eager to involve me into their roles and I loved having the opportunity to be involved, voice my opinions and build up my skill set within the heritage industry. My favourite module through Queen Mary was Heritage, History, Theory and Practice. This was a great introductory course on understanding what heritage is and I really enjoyed having robust and intellectual debates with my classmates and our lecturer.
I have done two degrees previously so there were no major surprises on the university side but the best thing about this course was being part of a wonderful group of people. Coming from Australia, I was really worried about being home-sick, but we all clicked together and that is something I will really miss now that we have all finished and gone our separate ways.
Can you describe your current role and your plans for your career going forwards? I was extremely lucky in getting a job during the covid-19 lockdown, and in the industry I wanted to work in. Currently, I am an Assistant Centre Manager at a small local museum and library in Wales. My future dream role is to be a curator working in a fashion and textiles collection or maybe a presenter for historical documentaries.
How did your time and study at Queen Mary help prepare you for a career in Heritage Management? This degree gave me an introduction into the world of heritage covering the many different aspects of this fascinating industry. So far, in my current job, the most useful part has been the skills and information I learned during the internships and masterclasses at HRP as I have been able to apply these in my current job – especially on pest and bug control in museums!
Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates considering studying an MA in Heritage Management? The last semester can get a little hectic with lots of assessments due at the same time so I would suggest having a good think about what to do your thesis on during the Christmas break. Also don’t be afraid to ask lots and lots of questions, this is the best opportunity you have to make connections with industry professionals and to get an idea of what part of the heritage industry you want to work in.
What is the most exciting thing about what you do now? I love getting to work in a museum! My passion is social history and the museum I currently work in has a large collection of everyday items, but also archaeological artefacts, which means I get to work with a large range of objects. Every day is different; one day I am monitoring pests, the next could be spent in the archives hunting for a mysterious object or filling out paperwork like new loans agreements or acquisition forms. I am really looking forward to when the risks of the covid-19 pandemic reduce, and we can start to reopen and I can work more closely with the local community and school groups.
What was special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments? Something rather unique was being in full lock-down in Queen Mary student accommodation and having to write a thesis with research almost completely done online – which was certainly memorable! The library was very helpful by increasing access to online material and my lecturers were very supportive. Creating strong friendships and meeting new people was the most special part of my time at Queen Mary.
This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Gemma or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at firstname.lastname@example.org.