Jennifer Hatton, Senior Visitor Experience Manager at the Natural History Museum
Jennifer graduated from BSc Archaeology in 2016. She discusses how she realised her ambition of working in heritage, through getting the most from her university experience.
"My passion for history was what spurred me on. I knew I wanted to end up in the heritage sector. I was already volunteering for the National Trust, so spoke to a few people and they suggested that archaeology would be a good subject to do at university, as it gives you a lot of grounding in the core parts of heritage.
I’d also been lucky enough to join a dig whilst in sixth form. I decided, ‘This is quite fun, I quite like this’, so I geared my A levels toward doing archaeology."
Archaeology at Nottingham
The thing that made me choose Nottingham was the lecturers. Because archaeology is a small course – there were 20 of us who did single honours archaeology – you really got to know the staff. They were the most amazing group of academics and were so supportive.
"People like Naomi Skyes and Chris King were so supportive and really pushed me to do extra things. Also, when you had issues with your essays, I always found you could just pop in and speak to them. They’d give you really helpful advice – they were just amazing. It also enabled me to get involved with things I never thought I’d be able to. For example I was lucky enough to get involved with an excavation at Tattershall Castle.
In terms of the modules I studied, buildings archaeology was really great, I loved that one. It was really interesting and made me want to go into buildings heritage. Also I remember bio-archaeology, I absolutely loved that. And medieval Britain was another one that I loved. Then there were the illustration modules that we did in first and second year, those were really great as well."
Research is super important – the ability to take in lots of data, or huge amounts of text. In my career, I need to turn that into interpretation for visiting public in museums or historic houses. It's a hugely important skill set that I wouldn’t have got in other subjects.
"One of the things that’s really important when writing business briefs is to be concise. When I started my course, I wasn’t particularly good at essays. To be able to take large amounts of data, and turn that into something really concise and clear, is definitely a skill I got from my course.
I think my course also just generally gave me a passion for what I do. Archaeology is one of those subjects where you can get really invested in the subject matter and that’s really important when you’re working in a museum. You have to be passionate about the specific thing, to interpret for the public or to put items on display. That definitely came from studying archaeology.
I have also done care of collections in the past. I definitely got that from archaeology – being able to do the archaeological drawings of items, being able to do collection reports and condition surveys."
"There was a compulsory fieldwork element of my course. A group of us all decided to go together, which was really fun.
We went to dig at a site called the 'Lost City of Trellech', which is in Wales, and had the best time. It was quite a low-key dig, but because there wasn’t as many people there we got a great exposure. They let us do site drawings, actual excavation, finds, literally everything. We also met people from all over the world who had come to volunteer to dig.
The site as a whole found some really unique medieval European vases, these unique green glaze vases that were almost intact. They also found gold coins, outlines of buildings and wells...it was a really interesting dig."
Student life at Nottingham
"I was part of the Archaeology Society. I was social secretary in my second year and PR secretary in my third year. We ran a trip to Pompeii and took some students, which was great. We also held the first humanities ball, and also started a careers development programme, bringing speakers in and offering volunteering opportunities."
Working in heritage
"I look after the front of house visitor assistants. The team that I directly line manage are responsible for a million pounds of donations a year. I also do project management for exhibitions, look after commercial development, and develop tours. It’s a mixed bag.
I was recently on the project board for Fantastic Beasts, which is inspired by the Wizarding World. It links the mythology in Harry Potter to real life creatures in our collection. It was an amazing exhibition.
When you’re walking around the museum and you see that someone is really engaged and inspired, for me, that’s what it’s all about. To get that person at the end who says, 'That was amazing, I never knew that, I’ve learnt so much'."
Success to me is being able to see that what I’m doing is impacting people. From the little kids enjoying looking at the dinosaurs, to the projects where I’ve involved communities, getting them engaged. It's about seeing someone else is happy and really appreciative of what I’ve done.
Tips for making your CV stand out
- "Take all the opportunities that are presented to you! Nottingham has a huge range of voluntary and career development opportunities. Don't leave it until your third year to pack it all in
Having worked as a hiring manager in the past, when it comes to applying for jobs in the heritage sector, if you haven’t done other things, you’re not going to stand out. Take those voluntary opportunities, go on the digs, get involved with schools, the museum, the Lakeside Arts centre... You'll stand out and have an amazing time doing it”