If you’re not keen on school rules and timetables – but think you’d enjoy teaching - then working in the heritage learning sector could be for you.
Put simply, the job is about interpreting historic buildings and objects in an interesting way. So you need to be a creative person who can see things from new angles, and has a sense of humour! If you can combine this with an ability to deliver learning activities, then you are ideal for this job.
For a large part of the time, you may well work with schools and colleges (formal or curriculum-based learning) but you’ll also run events for people of all ages. Some historic sites have social justice programmes, too. You may need to train staff to work with you. It helps if you can enthuse people.
Your work brief will depend on where you are based – whether you’re in a museum, visitor attraction or heritage organisation (such as the Trust) – and whether you’re based in an inner-city area or in the countryside.
The work is great for people who like variety. For instance, on the same day, I could be researching 18th century smuggling, taking students on an architecture tour, and playing games with infants!
It’s sometimes difficult to convince your workmates that your job is serious. I once had to explain to my new boss why I was making paper butterflies…because I needed to test the activity before running a family event, of course…
Here’s a 10-point checklist.
As with many jobs in the heritage sector, you’ll need to start with volunteer work (a good way to learn). The pay varies as much as the job – it depends where you work.
I think being a learning manager is great because it allows you to use your own ideas. I love working with people and inspiring them. In the Trust, we talk about ‘learning through fun’. What better way to spend a day than encouraging people to do this?!
Debbie Jackson, Learning Services,The National Trust for Scotland.
The National Trust for Scotland is a conservation charity which cares for Scotland’s built and natural heritage – including castles, cottages, small industries, gardens and wild countryside.
Below are the websites of some other heritage bodies that have learning departments:
Historic Scotland is a government body that looks after many ancient and historic sites, particularly archaeological and ruined sites but also Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. (HS and the Trust have several partnership projects.)
The National Trust is like the National Trust for Scotland but it is larger and cares for historic sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
English Heritage is the equivalent of Historic Scotland. Their roles are similar.
You can also work in art galleries though you will need an art qualification. National Galleries of Scotland has several
Many museums and heritage sites have learning posts. Check out your local ones. You could volunteer to help with events in the holidays, in order to gain experience.
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