On Monday 1st August I will be celebrating 13 years as a proper archaeologist – one with a full time job that they love!
Before becoming an FLO in 2003, I was lucky enough to have a part-time temporary post as a HER (Historic Environment Record) assistant with Leicestershire County Council. I was in the right place at the right time when the PAS advertised for an FLO for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
I feel extremely lucky to have a job that I love and that utilises my skills, develops my knowledge and allows me to explore my interests (which are Vikings, silver stuff, Viking settlements, small finds and coins -ideally those used by the Vikings – but any early medieval material will do!). I love recording peoples finds, interacting with the public and using objects to tell stories about the past. I was always interested in history as a child and I got into archaeology because it is tactile. I always knew I wanted to work with small finds and coins. Holding an object that connects you to the past is an amazing experience and one I never tire of.
I started at the Council’s Archaeology dept. as a volunteer in 2000 after completing my Masters degree in Post Excavation Archaeology at the wonderful Leicester University. But I had a very long and twisting journey to get there. I left school at 16 and was lucky enough to get a Y.T.S. (if under 30 – ask a parent) placement in my local museum. Whilst doing this I got the newly introduced G.C.S.E.’s in Photography and Graphics. I then went to art college at 18 (because that was what I was good at at school) to study 3-D design, with a view to becoming a museum designer.
It was whilst I was writing my dissertation on Ancient Egyptian art that I realised all I really wanted to do was be an Archaeologist; preferably one that worked in a museum, because I have always loved museums. I did A level History and Sociology at evening class, worked to save up some money and started a degree in Archaeology and History at the University of Wales. It took me 13 years from leaving school to achieving my aim of actually working in Archaeology in 2001. But I don’t regret a moment of it. I developed many transferable skills whilst working, learnt loads of useful stuff doing a joint degree and I still use my art college training regularly.
If you really want to be an archaeologist then just go for it! I know it’s very tough these days and university is crippling expensive. I was extremely lucky- we still had grants in my day and I qualified as a mature student at the tender age of 23! My advice is to get some experience, volunteer, explore the different roles in archaeology. Find something that excites you. If you can afford to go to university, do a degree that gives you other options, like a science subject that you could apply to archaeology.
I’ll never be wealthy, but I don’t care. I am lucky enough to want to get out of bed and go to work every morning. No amount of money can buy that feeling.