Each year, professionals from organizations across the sector attend Heritage Day, a conference hosted by The Heritage Alliance, to discuss important issues and goals currently affecting their field of work.
As a Masters student, I had the privilege to attend this event, at first feeling out of place, but determined to gain insight into the sector and reflect on how current projects in the field might engage my own career interests. The Tower of London on that chilly February morning was a formidable sight, especially for a conference venue. However, as I queued alongside a happy crowd of colleagues at the entrance, already comfortably chatting and re-connecting, I soon felt I was in the right place.
The day was already scheduled down to the minute, with a series of networking exchanges, plenty of caffeinated beverages, wonderful speakers, and a variety of topics. Out of all the great material, the most notable themes concerned an embrace of digital technology as well as a more thorough assessment of environmental impact in heritage. In terms of the digital, though heritage professionals are very active on social media platforms like Twitter (every speaker had a handle listed under their name in the itinerary), digital skills have finally found a spotlight, and their potential for efforts both in conservation and visitor outreach is now being recognized. And in facing the current environmental crisis, “making the case for heritage” was powerfully advanced in Adala Leeson’s presentation, which detailed the calculated reduction of our carbon footprint when we reuse and recycle historic buildings compared to new construction.
In addition to spending time with a handful of Oxford’s Heritage Partnerships Team, I also made new contacts in the sector, which will certainly help to keep heritage ingrained in my current studies as I work toward future professional opportunities. I was not the only student present and was very pleased with the warm reception. I feel especially encouraged to engage further with technology and sustainability in my involvement with the Oxford University Heritage Network.
Heritage Day was indeed a day of learning and celebration; I was very happy to take part as a student. Next year, I hope to attend again alongside those many heritage professionals who first welcomed me, and with them, continue to support such a worthy and active sector.
Amanda R. Westcott is a current graduate student at the University of Oxford, completing an MSt in eighteenth-century British and European history. She is interested in British country houses during this period, and her Master's research will focus on the Harcourt family at Nuneham Park, Oxfordshire, as a case study. Amanda is also an active participant in TORCH's Heritage Pathway Programme and aims to pursue a career in the heritage sector after her studies. She tweets @ar_westcott.
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