Alumni Stories: Meg Gard
7th October 2020
This series of posts looks at what our former students do after they graduate in History at the University of Gloucestershire. It demonstrates the various types of employment and further study they can go into. It provides useful guides for existing students, but also highlights the fascinating journeys of our graduates. The next story comes from Meg Gard (Class of 2018).
I have been doing a lot of reflecting recently. It has surprised me that five years ago I moved to Cheltenham to begin my degree in history at the University of Gloucestershire. I began my journey anticipating it to end four years later as a qualified history teacher. This had been my plan for a few years prior to starting university.
As I began my third year I started to apply for secondary school teaching courses. After a few failed interviews and nerves getting the better of me, I started to realise that this was not the career for me (at least not at this moment in time, who knows what the future holds?).
History is something I had been passionate about for years, it was a subject I found engaging, where I am always keen to learn more. I knew I wanted a job which would allow me to fully make use of my degree. Not knowing where to begin, a friend suggested I attend an upcoming open evening at the Wilson in Cheltenham where a range of museum careers would be discussed. For me this event was enlightening, I found the jobs fascinating, particularly collections management and curating. I did some further reading when I got home and developed an understanding of how I needed to get to my final destination. I then began looking into postgraduate Museums Studies courses.
I must point out that this was not a random change in career options, I had become more interested in heritage from David Howell’s classes and my observations of how heritage was presented and maintained in Spain, on the second year trip to Cordoba.
A few weeks later another opportunity arose. On the History at Gloucestershire Facebook group, Erin Peters had posted news about a volunteering position as a young curator at Worcester Cathedral. Although I never got to see the main project through, I really enjoyed this experience, presenting ideas and contributing was fun and further motivated me to start a career in museums.
After I graduated from Gloucestershire, I began a masters in Cultural Heritage and Resource Management at the University of Winchester. This course was more engaging as it focused on the wider heritage sector as well as museum studies. Volunteering in a heritage organisation was an assessed module on the course, as we had to organise our own placements I contacted the Salisbury Museum, and after an interview I was placed to shadow/assist three different roles. The one which I felt really engaged with and always looked forward to assisting was the role of Finds Liaison Officer (FLO). After my placement had finished I continued to volunteer alongside the FLO. In the last month of my master’s degree I managed to secure a six month internship working with the Dorset FLO. I really believe I managed to secure this position due to the experience I had received volunteering previously.
Fast forward six months later (March 2020), I was incredibly lucky to secured the job as the Finds Liaison Officer for Leicestershire and Rutland. You may be asking, ‘but what is a FLO?’ A FLO is a person who identifies finds over 300 years old found by members of the public (mainly it is metal detectorists). I identify anything from the Palaeolithic period through to the early Post Medieval period, including flint tools, pottery sherds, coins and other metal objects. I also get to work with objects which qualify as treasure under the Treasure Act 1996. All of these are catalogued on the British Museums ‘Portable Antiquities Scheme Database.’ (https://finds.org.uk/ you can have a browse).
So, although I never became a teacher I am lucky within my job to be able to do outreach within schools. Last year Josh Dowd (another UoG alumni) invited me to speak to his primary class about the development of prehistoric tools. My school visits allow children to see and handle mostly contemporary (some modern replica) artefacts from time periods they are learning about in school, bringing history to life in front of them.
I guess one of my main points from this blog post is to not be disheartened when things don’t necessarily go to plan. Another path can pave its way for you. Five years ago I would never have seen myself where I am now, I am in a job that I love, down a career path I would never have anticipated. For me personally volunteering has played a key part in allowing me to be where I am today, I am constantly learning new things about every time period and handling historical objects daily. There are many careers in which your history degree can take you down. Just remember to enjoy every moment of it!
If you’re interested in the sorts of objects I work with, feel free to give me a follow on twitter @meggard1, I often post on a range of objects from all periods. If any current students are close to Rutland and looking for some work experience I am happy to assist.
If you are an Alumni in History and you would like to contribute, please contact Christian O’Connell email@example.com