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History graduate discovers passion for heritage and collection through university networks

Alumni spotlight | Nina Healey, BA (Hons) History   

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Nina Healey

Nina wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a career when she started her History degree at Leeds Beckett University. After experiencing a varied range of modules throughout her course, she was inspired by a visiting guest lecturer from Bradford Museums and Galleries to pursue a career in heritage and collections. Nina has since completed an MA in Public History and is about to embark on an exciting new career at Harewood House.

Courses: BA (Hons) History

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you've been doing since you graduated

I graduated from Leeds Beckett University in 2019 with a BA (Hons) in History. I went on to study a Masters degree in Public History, whilst also working part time in the Visitor Experience at York Museums Trust.

Working in Visitor Experience means you are working front of house in the museum, engaging with the public by answering any questions and delivering tours. It’s a great job because it means you get to talk about history to people all day, and get paid for it!

For my MA I focused my research on museums and heritage in particular as I’d like to eventually work in interpretations or collections within the heritage industry. While my dissertation was tricky to complete with the Covid-19 restrictions, I managed to use the situation as a case study in my research into contemporary collecting in museums, galleries and archives. I explored how these institutions create and interpret new collections in response to current events, research which will be hopefully become useful in my career down the line

What have been the highlights and challenges of your career so far?

One of the highlights of my career so far was in my role in Visitor Experience at York Castle Museum, where part of my job was to dress in period costume to deliver tours on their mock Victorian street. It was an amazingly unique chance to engage the public with heritage in a fun and entertaining way, and it was always a fulfilling feeling to hear that visitors have enjoyed themselves and learnt something from their tours with you.

A challenge in my career so far has definitely been the impact of Covid-19 on the heritage sector. Many organisations have had to make the difficult decision to make redundancies, and unfortunately, I lost my job towards the end of 2020. It was very tricky to find new opportunities while the lockdowns were still in place, but it was a good experience to develop my CV and explore new career paths. Luckily, I have been able to find a new role, in part thanks to the encouragement and references from my lecturers at Beckett, and I am excited to start this new chapter of my career and to find out where this opportunity could take me.

How has your experience studying at Leeds Beckett influenced you and your career?

My experience studying at Leeds Beckett was hugely influential to myself and my career. When I began in first year, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a career, or what I could use a history degree for. However, the opportunities available and the content of the course helped shaped my career path.

One influential experience was a session organised with a curator from Bradford Museums and Galleries, who gave a talk about what a curator’s job entails and gave us a chance to do some object handling. This was the session that helped me realise I wanted to work in heritage and with collections, and from here I began to start volunteering at Leeds Museum to build up some experience.

The modules offered at Beckett were hugely influential. Not too many undergrad courses offer modules in public history or the chance to work on community projects, and not only were these modules great experience for my CV, but also helped inform my decision to study public history for my masters, as well as developing really key skills.

What advice would you give someone thinking about studying this course?

My advice to anyone looking to study this course is to think about what you want to get out of your time studying – what skills you’d like to develop and what areas of history you’d want to explore. Things like the content of the course, the city you’d be living in, the opportunities on offer and what past students say mean far more than things like league tables, especially when studying history.

The History course at Leeds Beckett has a great combination of practical and theoretical history and covers such a broad and interesting range of subjects. Plus, the staff are so supportive and genuinely care about your progress, which makes all the difference. I’d also advise students to explore what’s on offer at the Students’ Union, as this can be a great way to enrich your university experience. Opportunities to run for course rep or student council positions can be an amazing way to meet new friends at university and enhance your skillset for your career.

What's next for you?

I’m looking forward to starting in my new position at Harewood House in May when lockdown restrictions are lifted. It’ll be an exciting opportunity to gain experience in a country house which has a strong focus on decolonisation; a really important topic of discussion in the heritage industry at the moment which has important implications in the way we engage communities and the public. After getting a few more years of work experience I’d also like to think about studying for a PhD.

What will your story be?

Studying with us is a great choice, check out some of our courses and see for yourself!

In Clearing
BA (Hons)

History

Two women reading history artefacts
In Clearing
Woman smiling reading a book in the library

Nina Healey

Nina wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a career when she started her History degree at Leeds Beckett University. After experiencing a varied range of modules throughout her course, she was inspired by a visiting guest lecturer from Bradford Museums and Galleries to pursue a career in heritage and collections. Nina has since completed an MA in Public History and is about to embark on an exciting new career at Harewood House.

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