Rebecca Morris-Buck leads a project to develop Bennerley Viaduct in Nottinghamshire into a community asset and heritage attraction. She is also the co-founder of the Safer Museums Network and is studying part-time for a master’s in site-specific theatre at heritage sites.
“My first job, at 18 years old, was as a costumed interpreter at a museum. It taught me a lot about how museums work and I’m still in touch with some of the friends I made. From there, I didn’t follow a ‘typical’ museum career path: I studied English at university, then everything, including my career, stopped for a decade as I was trapped in an abusive relationship.
“Fast forward to when I was 29, and my contacts and previous experience helped me back into museums, this time combining costumed tour guiding with education delivery. I have no museum qualifications, but skills and experience count, and I worked my way to officer-level roles at two museums.
“But after five years, I craved a permanent full-time job, as I was getting married and getting a mortgage. So I utilised transferable skills – communication, volunteer management, audience engagement – to move to a role in higher-education alumni relations.
“In that role, I took advantage of all the training and networking opportunities available.
“I remained part of the heritage sector by interacting on Twitter, reading Museums Journal and being part of my local heritage forum. I also maintained my personal network via LinkedIn. After two years – having had time to rest and reflect – I was offered a senior management role in heritage, which I heard about via my network.
“I’ve not looked back since. I’ve learned not to see the sector as something you’re either ‘in’ or ‘out’ of. The boundaries are permeable. There are skills that work well in other sectors, where you can gain perspective and new skills.
“And you don’t have to leave your network behind: museum people love to stay connected and to share their work. Make the most of that, in real life and through online networks. It’s not a failure to move ‘outside’ of heritage, it’s just a step along the way to finding the role that is the best fit for you.”
Rebecca Morris-Buck, Project Manager, Bridging the Gap Project
Gurminder Kenth began working in the heritage sector in 2000, after graduating with a BA Hons in art and design. She volunteered at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham before joining the visitor services team. Kenth worked at Birmingham Museums Trust for 20 years: as a curator manager at Aston Hall and Park during a capital project; and as museum manager at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. She left to join the Vegan Society in 2021, but returned to heritage last year as a general manager at the National Trust.
“I left the sector because the pandemic gave me time to reflect. I wanted to make a proactive difference with the climate agenda. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s closure for major works also helped me decide.
“I joined the Vegan Society as head of operations – a new role in which I used my operations skills and knowledge. My people management skills were a core part of this role, as were leadership and the ability to be a self-motivator. I gained a lot in my time at the society, developing my skills and expanding my knowledge.
“While there, I also became aware of how the pandemic had highlighted isolation and loneliness, and how this was affecting individuals across the board. Losing my mum suddenly in early 2022 meant family time and making memories became even more important to me.
“Heritage plays an important part in our changing nation, with outdoor spaces becoming ever more valuable. Climate change and wellbeing are high on my agenda, and having safe spaces to have fun in during hard times is crucial.
“My advice is to persevere, but not to dismiss roles elsewhere that will build experience. Leaving can often cement what you really want to do and channel what type of organisation you want to work for that aligns with your ethics and core beliefs.”
Gurminder Kenth, general manager, North Warwickshire Portfolio, National Trust