South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Three tips on building a career in international heritage management

At the South West Fed, we’ve got to know lots of brilliant people working in heritage management in the region and internationally (including many of our members, of course). One thing we can say for sure is that they have followed different career paths. We’re excited by the diversity of skills and knowledge of those working in the field in the region. It means that there is a wide range of experts with different areas of focus or specialisms. This not only contributes to a strong heritage sector in the South West, but gives the potential for experts in the region to work overseas.

Heritage management is the practice of preserving, protecting and promoting heritage in its various forms. It might involve strategic and financial planning, disaster preparation, and people, project and site management. It might also include fundraising, arts sponsorship, external funding, and the marketing of heritage sites. Dr Jamie Hampson, a Senior Lecturer in Heritage at the University of Exeter (who was recently appointed as part of the launch of the new MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy which was developed by Dr Bryony Onciul and Dr Chloe Preedy), has provided some tips on building a career in international heritage management:

  1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. What fields of heritage management are you interested in? Do you think you’d enjoy the practical, day-to-day elements of being a heritage consultant as well as the theoretical aspects of public history?

    man sitting on rocks on Cornish heritage coastline looking down to the sea

    There is no set career path in heritage, which can be daunting for some, but liberating for others. I stumbled into heritage management because of my archaeological and anthropological work in southern Africa. My first degree was in history, and my MA was in Heritage and Museum Studies. Doing fieldwork and volunteering in countries outside of Europe not only gives you a taste of what it’s like to work with diverse groups – often with vastly different, and even sometimes irreconcilable worldviews – but it also helps you identify what you’re good at. This in turn will allow you to target specific companies and institutions within heritage sectors – both in the UK and abroad – when you are applying for jobs.

  2. Network! I’d also thought I wasn’t cut out for networking. Surely all the big names in the heritage sector were fed up of overly-eager and recently-qualified graduates introducing themselves at events and sending emails asking about upcoming opportunities? It turns out, however, that most of the established experts who pull the strings (and often control the purse strings) are affable, approachable, and keen to meet new people – especially if they are passionate about their subject and heritage in general.

    Word of mouth is a powerful tool. Heritage experts in the UK often know and collaborate with heritage experts overseas. If someone that is respected by colleagues endorses you, it’s likely that you’re more than half way to making it onto a future employer’s shortlist, whether in the UK or abroad.

  3. Gain extra qualifications, and volunteer. In addition to courses like the University of Exeter’s new MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy, volunteering is an excellent idea – especially because many of your competitors will likely have done the same. Volunteering – both in the UK and abroad – not only provides you with invaluable new experiences and a chance to identify your strengths and weaknesses, it also helps you expand your professional network. Most of all, working abroad is rewarding, and fun!

If you are interested in finding out more about the University of Exeter’s brand new MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy, please click here for further information, and to find out about the current offer to receive £1,000 off your tuition fees.

Dr Jamie Hampson is a Senior Lecturer in Heritage at the University of Exeter, and specialises in heritage studies and Indigenous rock art. He works in Europe, North America, South Africa, and Australia. Current projects include work on Indigenous heritage and world views; rock art regionalism and identity; cultural tourism and the presentation of heritage sites to the public; the commodification of the past; human interaction with cultural landscapes; and historiography.