Paige Dixon (Heritage Management MA, 2020)
Paige talks about her love of British History and how she was originally inspired by Anne Boleyn, how studying Heritage Management was a diversion from her original goal of becoming an FBI Agent, and how she is gaining valuable experience in Heritage Management in order to fulfil her dream of becoming a curator.
Could you tell us about why you chose to pursue a Masters in Heritage Management at Queen Mary?
I chose to pursue a Masters in Heritage Management at Queen Mary because it seemed like the perfect fit for me. My dream for a long time has been to work in heritage management, and in particular for Historic Royal Palaces. I knew that to successfully build a career in this field, I would need to have a post-graduate degree. When I saw Lucy Worsley (Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces) advertising the Masters in Heritage Management programme at Queen Mary, where I would get practical experience interning at the palaces themselves, it seemed like a dream come true. I know it seems silly, but the Heritage Management masters featuring Historic Royal Palaces really could not have been a more perfect programme for me.
What made you enter this field? What opportunities did you see?
I mainly entered this field because of my love of history. History, and in particular, British History, has been my greatest passion for as long as I can remember. I concluded that I wanted a career where I could work with history every day. Being a curator would be my ideal role, but I would be happy working in any position in heritage management. I see opportunities everywhere: museums, castles, country houses, cathedrals, battlefields etc. Anywhere that there is history, there is an opportunity.
A memory that I have that I sometimes STILL cannot believe happened, is when I got to shake hands and speak with Prince Charles when he and Camilla visited the Tower of London. Nothing could have prepared me for that.
What type of research or extracurricular activities did you participate in at Queen Mary that helped you succeed?
I was the course representative for the MA in Heritage Management. I had been the senior course representative for my department and the International Student Councillor at Bangor University, where I did my undergrad, and I loved it. I was very excited to have the opportunity to be a course representative at Queen Mary. I really enjoyed working with the staff and students to make the course better for everyone involved. I also volunteered at the Foundling Museum so that I could gain more experience in the heritage sector before I graduated.
What are your favourite memories of your time at Queen Mary?
I have so many wonderful memories of my time at Queen Mary. I have several that are particularly dear to me. The first is of my first day at Hampton Court Palace with the other Heritage Management Students when we got to go on the roof. It was absolutely amazing and beautiful. Another is when we went ice-skating at Christmas time at Hampton Court. A memory that I have that I sometimes STILL cannot believe happened, is when I got to shake hands and speak with Prince Charles when he and Camilla visited the Tower of London. Nothing could have prepared me for that. I think my favourite memories though, are all the times that I spent with the MA group. We did so many wonderful things together: a Christmas lights bus tour, a West End show, Christmas Markets, group dinners… They became some of my closest friends. We really became a family during our time at Queen Mary.
Congratulations on your new job at St George’s Hall. Could you give us an insight into your work and offer some tips to those job-hunting amid these uncertain times?
I must be honest. It has been extremely difficult finding a job during the pandemic. I applied for over fifty jobs and only managed to get one interview. It has been especially difficult because I am from the United States, and would therefore have to be sponsored. Companies are not wanting to sponsor international workers right now because it costs a lot of money to be a licensed sponsor, and it is easier to hire someone more local. My new position at St. George’s Hall is a volunteering position for a new exhibition that will be opening in August. I am very excited and can’t wait to start. Although it is not a paid position, it is experience in the field that I want a career in. Experience is experience, and if you can get it, do it. You develop valuable skills and connections in internships and volunteer work. That would be my main tip to those who are job hunting during these uncertain times: get experience wherever you can get it.
What is the best thing about your work?
The best thing about working in heritage management is that I am always learning something new. New research is always being conducted and new information is always coming to light. I find that even if I think that I know all there is to know about a subject in history, there is always something new to learn, or a different perspective to consider.
Who has been your biggest influence and why?
It may seem a bit strange, but my biggest influence has been Anne Boleyn. Reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory is what got me interested in history. I became fascinated with Anne Boleyn’s story, and began looking up the people and events that I came across in the book. This led me to read more books on British history and instilled in me the love I have for it today. Without Anne Boleyn, I would not have become interested in history, and thus heritage management. I would not be here today without her.
What is something about you that people might find surprising?
Something about me that people might find surprising is that I originally wanted to become a police officer. I was going to go to university and study criminal justice with the intention of attending the police academy after I graduated. My end goal was to become an FBI agent. After two weeks of criminal justice classes, I realised that it was NOT what I wanted to do. Criminal Justice and Heritage Management are completely different fields, but that proves that you never know where life will take you!
What advice do you have for students interested in heritage management?
I have a couple pieces of advice for students interested in heritage management. First, start making your connections now. The more people that you know in the field, the better chances you will have of finding a job after you graduate. Secondly, volunteer. Volunteer with any historical/cultural organisation that you can, even if it is your tiny local museum. Employers are really looking for people with a lot of experience right now, and the more you have, the better shot you have at landing a job. Any experience is valuable experience.
Where do you see yourself in 2030?
In 2030 I see myself doing something that I love. At the moment, I hope that means that I will have a curating position at a heritage organisation. Who knows where life may take me though? If I have learned anything during the pandemic, it is to do what makes you happy. So I guess as long as I am doing something that I love and that makes me happy in 2030, I would say that I had achieved my goal.
If you would like to get in touch with Paige or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie Grey at firstname.lastname@example.org.