Welcome Week begins today for our new students so it seems like a good time to celebrate the excellent work being done by former students. Katy trained as tour guide with us ages ago and was put back in contact a few weeks back. She is now Community and Outreach Officer at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide and kindly agreed to write a blog post in our ‘Life after Reading’ series.
What are you doing now?
I am the Community and Outreach Officer at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide based in Russell Square, London. I am responsible for the overall community and outreach strategy at the Library in line with a four year Heritage Lottery Fund project which is focused on widening audience engagement with the Library and its collections. I enjoy the diversity of my role; one day I can be networking at a foreign embassy, another day I can be running an exhibition project with an activist group. My other key responsibilities include events management, volunteer management, partnership brokering and social media PR and marketing.
How did your time at Reading prepare you for this line of work?
Academically, my time at Reading gave me transferable skills which I use every day in my job. I regularly give presentations and speak in public where I also put to use the historical knowledge I gained in my degree. A large part of my day to day work is research based whether it’s finding speakers for an event, looking for potential partner organisations, contacting community groups or researching content for an exhibition.
Reading gave me the opportunity to gain professional experience outside of my degree. I volunteered as a tour guide and family learning assistant at the Museum of English Rural Life. Additionally, I volunteered as an assistant archivist at the REME Museum of Technology during my second year and was offered a temporary paid position for September 2009, before I began my third year. Both these opportunities offered me the chance to learn about working in museum environments and confirmed my aspiration to work in the museum sector.
What training/experience did you get after leaving Reading?
Prior to beginning at Reading I had volunteered at Portsmouth Records Office and City Museum, which included a short stint at Portsmouth D-Day Museum, so in addition to my volunteering work in Reading I had already built up my practical experience. After finishing my BA I knew that I wasn’t finished with studying and I was torn between doing an MA in Museum Studies or an MA related to the area of history I was interested in (20th century conflict). Despite wanting to work in the museum sector, I decided that having a more specialised masters in history would make me stand out and so I chose the MA War, Culture and History at the University of Manchester. During my MA I had the opportunity to apply for work placement, which I was lucky enough to get, at the Imperial War Museum North on a community outreach project. The combination of my work experience and my degrees meant that I was well placed to work at an institution like the Wiener Library.
If you could give just one piece of advice for current students what would it be?
My advice for current students is this: do everything. Take every opportunity to volunteer, network and get your name known. Build up a professional profile using social media, Twitter is particularly good for that as you can interact with organisations. Don’t forget to use your initiative, just because an organisation isn’t advertising for volunteers or work placements it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask anyway. Don’t forget it’s also important to do things that aren’t necessarily related to your career like joining sports clubs or societies – it will make you a more rounded person. Social skills are equally as important as anything else.
I know the question asked for one piece of advice but I just want to finish with this one point: do what you love. No one ever worked in museums to become a millionaire, but we do usually have a high level of job satisfaction. As Confucius said, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’.
The Wiener Library holds Britain’s largest archives relating to the Holocaust and Nazi era. Follow the @wienerlibrary for updates on events, exhibitions and more.
Follow @Katy_WL for day to day community and outreaching as well as other museumy stuff.