Amelia Evans, MA International Heritage Management
The Making Connections four-day conference addressed Heritage Interpretation and was based in Inverness, the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Through lectures, parallel sessions, site visits and an award ceremony, the conference highlighted how a multi-disciplinary approach is enabling people to discover meaning, value and ownership in landscapes, past, present and future. This international conference enabled decision-makers, managers, curators and interpreters to learn from each other - across disciplines and beyond borders. I was fortunate enough to attend the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Landscape Partnership - Cairngorms National Park visit.
What were your main achievements?
- Developed my knowledge and understanding of interpretation of the natural and cultural landscape which will assist with my degree.
- Attending the conference helped me to decide which subject to focus my 15,000 word dissertation on. The issue of enabling those with disabilities, such as Autism, to connect to landscapes through interpretation was addressed at lectures and sessions and it is clear that more work needs to be done internationally on this subject and it is something I would like to include in my dissertation.
- Making a lot of valuable connections with others in the sector. Networking and building connections is incredibly important for employability and working partnerships. Connections with the right people will help me obtain a job.
“Attending the conference developed my networking skills with new, important contacts. Being able to network successfully is a vital skill to have for academic and career development.”
What did you enjoy the most?
- I obtained affirmation of the decision to focus my career upon Heritage Interpretation. The Heritage Interpretation sector is competitive, small and difficult to break into. At numerous points, this hard sector has led me to question whether or not I should pursue a career in it. Attending the conference showed me that furthering my career in Heritage Interpretation is the right decision as my love for it was highlighted whilst there. Heritage Interpretation is a niche subject and being surrounded by others who have a similar passion to me was fulfilling and firmed up my conviction that this is the right sector for me. In addition, it was highlighted that it is a non-hierarchical, democratic sector where everyone is keen to listen to others experiences and ideas. I felt comfortable talking to and airing ideas to those senior to me, such as the Chair of the Association of Heritage Interpretation. Discovering that the Chair had similar ideas on a particular site that needed Interpretation enhanced my self-confidence.
- I enjoyed learning more about and being totally immersed in my favorite subject - Heritage Interpretation.
- I enjoyed the site visit to Tomintoul and Glenlivet Landscape Partnership - Cairngorms National Park. I am a big lover of the outdoors and the Cairngorms were beautiful. The site visit helped me develop my understanding of Interpretation of natural and cultural landscapes.
- On Thursday evening, a Scottish Ceilidh Dance took place which everyone took part in and was very enjoyable. It enabled delegates to have fun together and get to know each other well.
What were the hardest aspects?
- Most of the parallel sessions were twenty-five minutes long. This was a very short time for presentations, such as Geoheritage Interpretation: an approach from the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, to take place. Many of the speakers had to rush through their presentations because of the timeframe. The sessions were even shorter in many cases because people had to walk from session to session and there was not much time between the start and finish. Trying to digest the information and make notes was quite challenging because of the time frame.
- The conference was fully booked and unfortunately, I was unable to obtain a space on the site visit, Around Inverness: Clava Cairns, Culloden Battlefield, Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. It was difficult to accept that I was not going to be able to join this site visit. However, as stated I had a fulfilling experience at Tomintoul.
- Ensuring I spoke to all those I intended to was difficult. I spoke to a large amount of people but in some cases, I could not introduce myself to a number of people I was intending to because time went quickly with a lot of activity taking place.
What skills have you developed?
- Attending the conference developed my networking skills with new, important contacts. Being able to network successfully is a vital skill to have for academic and career development.
- Attending this event developed my creative skills of considering information that may be valuable and relevant to my dissertation.
- Whilst at parallel sessions and lectures I developed my note taking skills. As mentioned, the sessions were short and I had to take notes quickly. These notes had to include key points that were relevant to my masters and dissertation.
- My timekeeping skills were enhanced. The schedules for the days and evening were busy and I had to ensure that I was not late at any point. If I was late for the day of the site visits, I would have been not able to attend.
- Whilst on the site visit at Tomintoul we visited a site called Scalan. Scalan was a secluded refuge for persecuted 18th century Catholics and a seminary where priests were secretly trained. An early 20th century Threshing Mill and the preserved cottage of a recluse, Sandy, whose family had lived there for centuries was also on the site. The landscape was isolated and atmospheric. We were asked what Interpretation we felt should be installed at this site. The site visit developed my skill of considering suitable Interpretation to support a heritage site.
How do you think your experience will benefit you in the future?
- The knowledge on Interpretation I obtained from this conference will benefit my future career in the sector. The package of information and experiences disseminated at the conference was unique and not in a book. This unique package of information has developed my understanding of the subject and current thoughts and strategies, which can be used in my future career.
- The connections made with others in the sector will help my employability. Additionally, these connections can help to form working partnerships between heritage sites and organisations. Working partnerships help those in communities to access heritage. Not only will building connections benefit me in the future but will aid the sector and help to make heritage more accessible to the public.
- As mentioned, this was an international conference so global working partnerships have been established. These partnerships are vital, especially considering the current political climate of Brexit. Creating and preserving international ties is important to ensure Britain remains part of the international heritage sector and that standards within the British heritage sector remain high.
- Whilst at the conference a member of staff from the Association of Heritage Interpretation asked me if I would write a piece for their newsletter on attending the conference for the first time. Writing a piece for the newsletter is a great experience that I can add to my CV. The newsletter is read by many in the sector so may also help my employability.
Thank you to donors
Thank you for donating the funds for me to attend this conference. Attending this conference was a valuable, enjoyable and fulfilling experience. Without your kind donation, I would not have been able to attend. Heritage Interpretation is a niche subject and being surrounded by others who have a similar passion to me was fulfilling and firmed up my conviction that this is the right sector for me.
With grateful thanks to the alumni donors who made the PGT Professional Development Bursary possible.