David Hanks, Collections Manager for English Heritage
David graduated from BA Archaeology in 2015. He explains how his lifelong fascination for archaeology led him to a career with English Heritage.
"As I got older, this passion developed further and I started to ask more and more questions and looked to archaeology for the answers. Our history was never going to get boring if new archaeological discoveries could potentially change our entire understanding, or provide another piece of the puzzle.
I knew this was the right path for me; I wanted a career that was both hands-on but allowed me to get lost in research. Archaeology at university allowed me to do just that and Nottingham was the perfect place for it."
Tailoring your degree
"One of the things I really loved about this degree was the range of module choices and the flexibility to tailor these to my interests. I particularly wanted to focus on Roman archaeology, so my module choices reflected this. I was also able to pick up modules outside of Archaeology, including Latin.
Within these modules I was also able to choose my assessment methods. I’ve never been great with exam pressure, so the ability to do more coursework over exams was really beneficial.
One of my favourite modules was 'Introduction to Roman Archaeology'. It was one of the first modules I started and it really reaffirmed that this subject was the right step for me. It sparked again that sense of excitement that had started as a child, reading 'Horrible Histories' and during visits to archaeological sites.
I loved the entire department, particularly Will Bowden, but all the lecturers were great they were all really approachable and always made time to help, support and offer guidance. I never felt like just a number, they knew me and my research interests so they regularly signposted me to new research publications and developed my interests in a more rounded way."
"The course included 20 days of compulsory fieldwork, which put the theory into practice. I did two excavations, one just down the road from Nottingham, which was the site of a late medieval manor house, and the other an early Roman villa outside Chester.
It was great getting hands-on experience. These excavations allowed me to see the full process of archaeological investigation in practice; from the first spade in the ground through to site recording and finds processing.
This experience was invaluable. In my current role I regularly consult excavation reports and knowing the processes allows me to be more analytical and critical."
"University life is more than just a degree, so I also did a lot of volunteering during my time at Nottingham.
In my final year, I served as the president of the Archaeology Society. I wanted to expand the society beyond the obvious evening events and so we also established careers development programmes with early career professionals and alumni and hosted archaeological outreach sessions with local schools in partnership with Nottingham’s on-site museum. We also managed a trip to Pompeii, which really was great fun. I was always thinking about ways to make myself and my CV stand out."
Skills for success
"One of the most important skills that I gained from my degree was the ability to critically analyse and interrogate data. This is an invaluable skill for anyone, and in my role it's important as it allows me to confidently challenge reports and understand these on a deeper level."
It really helped me to develop my ability to analyse reports and publications to identify threads across multiple texts. Our understanding of the past is constantly changing and so it’s important to also have the confidence to interrogate and challenge outdated theories and ideas in light of new information.
Working for English Heritage
"I always knew that I wanted to go into curation and heritage management. I love the way that museums and good curation can inspire and facilitate discussions. I wanted to be part of a team that helped to tell our nation's story in a fun and inspiring way.
My job with English Heritage is to facilitate the successful management of English Heritage's reserve collection. The objects that visitors see on display are often a tiny fragment of those from a particular site. It’s my role to ensure these collections are cared for, which can range from documenting, researching and repacking, to conservation cleaning.
Not all objects are so happy to have been excavated; metalwork for example can become very unstable and corrode, so we work to slow down this degradation by storing objects in their optimum environmental conditions. These collections are by no means static and are continually accessed not just by curators, but by historians, researchers, academics, authors and film crews from the UK and worldwide."
My favourite part of the job is knowing that I’m helping contribute to the narration of part of our national story. I work with nationally and internationally important collections, spanning way over 2000 years from prehistory to the present day.
"For me, success is not a fixed goalpost, it’s the idea of continual growth. I’m always trying to push myself to learn new skills, or talk to new people, to understand different angles and opinions and to constantly review my work to ensure I’m striving for improvement. It's a constantly moving benchmark of personal development.
I really enjoyed my time at Nottingham, it helped form who I am today and the work I do. It also formed and developed many of the skills that I use now every day. I look back on my time at Nottingham very fondly. I’ll be forever grateful."