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Work Placements

The Level Five module ‘Work Placement: Applied History or Politics in the Workplace’ allows History students to gain understanding of the issues involved in working at museums and other heritage sites, and Politics students to gain a working understanding of how politics unfolds and operates at the local level and is reported by local journalists. Equally, students apply to their placements the intellectual and subject-specific skills they have acquired as part of their History or Politics degree, thus making a valuable contribution to their chosen work sites as ‘specialists’.

The module is important as it provides practical vocational experience. It is consistently voted one of the most popular modules, and students can gain valuable contacts during their placements. Many of them stay on as volunteers at their placement sites and some have gone on to gain employment in the heritage sector. You can see some of their stories below.

For the duration of their six-week onsite placement, each student is allocated a particular task designed to benefit the work placement provider as much as themselves. Increasingly digitisation projects are available, giving students important transferable skills for various careers not related to History or the heritage sector.

Over the past few years, History students have worked on such important and varied projects as:

  • Recording medieval and early-modern graffiti in Chichester Cathedral
  • Researching 18th-century bedrooms for displays at Petworth House
  • Making educational PowerPoints on 16th-century children’s games for the Mary Rose Museum
  • Designing educational leaflets on the Iron Age for Butser Ancient Farm,
  • Planning interpretative strategies for the new visitor centre at Bignor Roman Villa
  • Designing displays on the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) for Tangmere Military Aviation Museum

Examples of History work placements

Rebecca Gallagher (2012-13)

Rebecca carried out Oral History interviews in care homes, related to vintage film clips of local towns. Download her work placement journal.

Tom Williams (2016-17) at work in Worthing Library

Tom says “For my work placement at Worthing Library, I researched events in the British Civil Wars in West Sussex (e.g. the sieges at Chichester and Arundel in 1642 and 1643/44, and the rebellions against Parliamentary Rule at Horsham in 1648), and used microfilm technology to find contemporary newspaper articles accounts of those events. I then digitised these articles and added them to a virtual archives collection for future researchers.

The placement was fascinating and hugely enjoyable. The chance to work with local history specialists was fantastic, giving me greater insight into the methods and debates behind historical research. Learning how theories taught in lectures and seminars can be applied will enhance my dissertation, whilst the placement as a whole has revealed other careers that I could pursue. I certainly recommend the module to future students and am grateful to Worthing Library and for this opportunity as part of my degree.”

Example of a Politics Work Placement: The Chichester Observer (2016-17)

The placement is designed to give a broad ranging insight to journalism. Where possible work will be tailored to meet interests - sport, news, features etc - while providing a good taste of everything, giving an insight into the working of weekly papers and monthly magazines  Tasks might include:

  • researching articles
  • writing features
  • accompanying reporters to court
  • conducting interviews

Future Prospects: Student Case Studies

The module doesn't’t only take those who wish to follow a particular career path - it is open to everyone. However, for those considering a future in the museum, heritage or politics fields, the experience and practical skills gained can give a CV a huge boost.

Claire Edwards (2010), Historic Properties Steward, Audley End House, Essex (English Heritage)
Placement project: Creating updated room folders for the bedroom suites at Petworth House
Employment: Continued to volunteer at Petworth until gaining her current position with English Heritage in 2011.

"I would definitely recommend the work placement module to other students. It helped with my work for other modules and inspired my choice of dissertation. At Petworth I gained insight into heritage management, and experienced many things including helping with conservation and giving talks and guided tours to the public. The module was a step on the ladder of a career in heritage, and, together with further volunteering it was a major factor in getting my current job. Having said this, including work placement experience on your CV will attract many employers - not just those within the heritage industry!"

Rebecca Gallagher (2013, picture above), Volunteers Coordinator, Pass it On oral history project
Placement project: Carrying out Oral History interviews related to vintage film clips of local towns
Employment: Recommended by placement coordinator, gaining the post of short-term Volunteer Coordinator for Chichester Festival Theatre’s 3-year ‘Pass it On’ project (http://passiton.cft.org.uk/)

"The work placement module was brilliant - by far my favourite module.  I worked with an oral history project linked to Screen Archive South East.  The aim was to conduct as many oral history interviews as possible with elderly local residents, with film footage of their home town as a prompt.  As well as further practice at conducting interviews following the Oral History module, this gave me the opportunity to learn how heritage lottery funded oral history projects work and how collections are handled in the archive. The module has given me direction that I didn't have before and I hope to find a permanent job similar to those I have experienced as a direct result of taking it."

You can view Emily’s videos here

Emily Nazer (2014), Visitor Engagement Assistant, The Novium (Chichester Museum)
Placement project: Creating 4 video clips for the museum’s YouTube channel, discussing two Second World War ration books, a Roman oil lamp and the famous Municipal Moon lantern, dating to the 1600s. You can view Emily’s videos here.

Employment: Emily continued as a volunteer at the museum and gained paid employment there in July 2014 assisting with all running and leading events including corporate event hire, workshops, school groups, children’s sleepovers and birthday parties, and adult evening lectures.

"This was the most beneficial module I did at Uni! It is great for people who know what career path they’d like to follow but is also worthwhile for those who are unsure.  Before it I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation but through working at the Novium and researching for my assignment I’ve been shown a lot of career possibilities. The module definitely helped me get this job as it made me fully appreciate all the hard work that goes into heritage work as well as the importance of advertising and publicity."

Natalie Savage (2006, right), National Trust Visitor Services Manager, Arlington Estate, Devon
Placement project: Researching an 18th-century tollhouse for the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum
Employment: Secured successive employment with the National Trust as Manager of Tintagel Old Post Office (Cornwall) and as Visitor Services Manager for the Arlington Estate (Devon).

"The work placements module was excellent! I would definitely recommend it to students. Having practical work experience on my CV unquestionably helped to start my career with the National Trust. For example my placement at the Weald and Downland gave me a taster of researching and creating interpretation for visitors - something that I now do almost on a daily basis! The module is a great opportunity to see conservation in action and gives deep insight into issues affecting heritage management. It also helped to enhance my work in other modules."

Peter Symonds (2010), Visitor and Volunteer Co-ordinator, Petworth House, Sussex (National Trust)
Placement project: Designing an educational trail for Petworth House.
Employment: Was offered a part-time position at Petworth from June 2010, assisting with volunteer co-ordination and conservation. When the house re-opened the following year, Peter was employed full-time as Visitor and Volunteer Co-ordinator.

"The module gave me a more rounded view of history and heritage. I never understood the effort that went into making sites like Petworth a success until I worked with the people who actually make things happen, hearing about the difficulties as well as how they could be overcome. My project allowed me to create interpretation for visitors to enhance their enjoyment - which I continue to do, as you can see in the photo! My experience also shows that the module can lead to bigger things. without doubt it kick started my career in heritage - for which experience is a necessity - and I certainly recommend it to future students."