An MSc in Digital Heritage: contemplations on a personal future.

I can hardly believe that I’m in my final week of timetabled master’s lectures (and have under two weeks in which to finish my final summative assesments, oh god!) – the time has absolutely flown! I’m feeling very reflective about the whole experience, and whilst I’ve struggled at times, both with the content of my course when placed alongside my previous research interests and the simple case of balancing work and study, I wouldn’t change it for the world!

I’ve learned a lot about what the real world of Heritage is like, beyond the Universities. I’ve become more independent, and grown up a lot. But I think that most importantly, I’ve made contacts.

I’ve been extremely lucky to be involved in a hugely interesting project with the York Museums Trust, and last week the past few months of contemplation on the project came together as I interviewed a certain Mr. Lamplough on camera. Mr. Lamplough, now in his 70’s I believe, has donated a large and extremely important collection of Bronze Age objects to the Yorkshire Museum. These objects were retrieved from a series of Neolithic and Bronze Age sites across the North York Moors in a series of rescue excavations in the 1950s and 60s when Mr. Lamplough was a boy of around 10. The work was pioneering and of the utmost importance.  I will be blogging about the collection on the YMT blog and visual material from the interview will be pushed over the web over the next few months.

I’ve also been offered the opportunity to go and do some work on the ever-changing and often challenging museum at Çatalhöyük. This will happen at some point during the fieldwork season, and wouldn’t even be happening without the influence of my greatly admired supervisor, Dr. Sara Perry, to whom I am hugely grateful!

All of these opportunities have been amazing and eye-opening, and I really don’t know what to do with myself next (although I have an entire thesis to write before I can move on to the next adventure!). I have moments where I think oh god, what am I doing? I need to get out now before it’s too late! but I just know that it’s not over yet. I’m not done with archaeology yet.

I came into this course with a very simple aim: to equip myself with the qualifications necessary to get paid (ha!) work in a sector that I am passionate about, rather than end up doing work that will suck my soul out through any available orifice (I’m looking at you, retail). A group discussion via Google Groups between students on the second Cultural Heritage Management module at York has made it absolutely clear that almost everyone is worried, nay terrified, about finding permanent and stable work in the heritage sector. And I’m getting that itching feeling that I had at the end of my bachelors where I’m thinking I’ve come this far, why not just carry on!? I could be the first person with a Doctorate in the family!

I think if I do decide to attempt to get funding for a doctorate though, I need a good long time to evaluate just what I want to get out of it. The course I’m on now was a quick decision, and whilst it is one I don’t regret for a second – it’s brought me to a wonderful place –  it’s caused me to deviate hugely from my primary interests in archaeology. As I’ve learned and developed intellectually, I now find myself lost. I can’t remember what my original interests were in the first place (if I ever really had any!) and I’m pretty sure that they will have changed and morphed over the academic year.

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To PhD, or not to PhD. That is the question.

I’ve recently been encouraged by a colleague and friend to apply for a funded PhD at his department. 

This is extremely exciting news, and it’s truly an honour to even be thought of, but I can’t help but feel a bit of apprehension. There’s my old friend, the Impostor Syndrome, and I often wonder how I even got as far as doing a masters (I suspect many of my A level teachers would be shocked to learn that out of my entire group of friends, I’m the one who’s been head-hunted for a funded doctorate!). I also wonder if I’d be able to handle 3.5 years of in-depth, solitary research. Having said that, I think one of the main problems I’ve encountered during my masters is the sheer amount of juggling I have to do with my subjects, writing essays on completely different topics at the same time, and fitting a part-time job in around it all. I suppose with a PhD I’d be studying broadly, but following my own interests and setting my own deadlines which I imagine would suit my learning style far better.

I won’t even go into the issue of finance and funding, because those are the woes of practically any archaeologist, but this is a very large factor in my considerations.

So I suppose I’m calling on people who are doing/have done PhDs and feel they have any advice. Is there such a thing as over-qualification? Do you think that doing a PhD could ever be a bad thing? Does anyone regret their decision? What would you say to your pre-PhD self, if you could?