Interview with a Heritage Consultant

Laure Emery is a Heritage Consultant who works for Simpson & Brown, a multi-disciplinary firm which offers architectural, archaeological, and heritage consultancy services across the UK and abroad. She has kindly offered to answer a few questions about her role, career, and how she became a Heritage Consultant.

Laure, what do you enjoy most about your role?

“I enjoy the variety of projects we work on. We study small vernacular buildings, as well as very large sites and landscapes, from medieval to modern architecture. We work with private owners, local trusts, and volunteers, but also with important bodies all over the UK. You cannot get bored in this job. The best treat is to see incredible places that are not always open to the public, and have a determinant role in their future.”

Can you briefly describe the pathway you followed to become a Heritage Consultant?

“I wanted to work in the understanding and conservation of built heritage, but I was unsure how to get there. I studied architecture and art history in France — my birthplace — which gave me great background knowledge. However, it is thanks to my Master’s degree in Conservation of the Built Environment at the Université de Montréal, Canada, that I really learned how to work in the built heritage sector.”

What advice would you give to an aspiring Heritage Consultant that’s confused about how to get there?

“There is certainly not a single way to become a Heritage Consultant. Anyone with a background in the history of architecture, architecture, archaeology, urbanism, planning or another relevant discipline can find a way.

You need the tools to understand the history of a site, including how to do historical research and assess the various heritage values of the site. You also need a holistic understanding of its context today — how the planning system works, how sites are protected and what that means, what the needs are, etc.

Heritage consultancy is a balance between many disciplines. You do not need to have a degree in each, but expanding your knowledge and experience in related disciplines will certainly help you get better at what you do, and therefore find a job as a Heritage Consultant.”

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

“Working in the heritage sector is fascinating. You constantly learn new things. It’s a world full of passionate people, and it is always in a state of change. The way we look after our built heritage today is different than it was 50 years ago, and it will likely be different again in 50 years time.

There is also some variation in heritage practice from one place to another, so as a Heritage Consultant, it is essential to stay up-to-date and complete CPD activities. It’s great to meet others involved in the conservation of built heritage, to discuss and question what we are doing and the way we do it. Heritage consultancy is certainly not dull or repetitive!”

About Laure Emery

Laure Emery is a Heritage Consultant for Simpson and Brown. She studied architecture and art history in France, before completing a Masters in Conservation of the Built Environment in Canada. Laure then worked as a research assistant for the Canada Research Chair on Built Heritage in Montreal where she completed works for various bodies, including the City of Montréal, Héritage Montréal, and the Commission Scolaire de Montréal. Laure moved to Scotland in 2014 and joined Simpson & Brown as a Heritage Consultant in 2016.

Studying Heritage Management and Consultancy at Exeter

The University of Exeter is now offering a postgraduate programme in International Heritage Management and Consultancy, which will prepare you to compete in the growing field of heritage and consultancy.

Sustainable Heritage: Searching for Windmills in Shakespeare’s Drama

Photo by Columbia114 (Morguefile)

The University of Exeter is offering all new students enrolling on its MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy programme in September 2018 a £1,000 tuition fee discountRead more and apply now.

Sustainability is one of the core themes of the University of Exeter’s new MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy, at a time when organisations such as Historic England and National Trust must manage heritage sites in the context of accelerated environmental and coastal change. Studying the past can inform responses to the challenges posed by climate change and provide us with a better understanding of preservation, loss, and material or immaterial change. Questions of heritage are also central to ongoing debates about renewable energy policy. For instance, plans to build wind turbines near Dartmoor National Park were opposed in 2003, 2004, and 2009 by those concerned about ‘the character of the landscape’ (The Telegraph, 10 August 2009), whereas a 2002 discussion of wind turbine proposals by the Dartmoor Society began with a public lecture surveying the historical use of wind power in the area (5th Dartmoor Society Debate, 19 October 2002).

Following discussions with colleagues in the Renewable Energy department, I became interested in not only the historical use of wind power, but also past attitudes towards this energy source. I was already investigating how William Shakespeare and his contemporaries participated in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century debates about air quality. While references to increased coal use and coal-smoke emissions feature in various plays, though, windmills are rarely mentioned. Shakespeare’s characters Falstaff and Shallow discuss time spent at ‘the Windmill’ in 2 Henry IV, but the allusion is probably to a local inn or brothel, as it is elsewhere. A few English playwrights follow the late-medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer’s lead, portraying millers as greedy or controlling, or echo the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes in connecting the windmill with mental disturbance or overblown speculation: Cervantes’ Don Quixote became famous in the seventeenth century for tilting at windmills in the belief that he was fighting giants. However, I could find little evidence that Shakespeare and his contemporaries were interested in the windmill as a wind-powered technology.

That discovery was surprising, since early inventors such as Francis Bacon were certainly interested in harnessing the power of the winds. Having been introduced to parts of England, Flanders, and northern France in the late twelfth century, windmills would have been a familiar sight to London’s sixteenth- and seventeenth-century playwrights: two maps from around 1600 suggest that Shakespeare’s Globe theatre was built near to several local windmills. Across the English Channel, seventeenth-century Dutch artists created landscape paintings in which windmills often feature prominently, reflecting pride in the recent technological achievement of using these mills to drain low-lying marshy lands (Jonathan Sawday, Engines of the Imagination). Why, then, do sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English playwrights seem to have so little interest in windmills as a power source? Why, when they refer to windmills at all, do their plays typically associate such technology with greed or failed investment, rather than success?

While I do not have a firm answer, I suspect that English dramatists, including Shakespeare, probably classed windmills among the many resources that the rich and powerful controlled during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and so made them a target of theatrical mockery, just as audiences might be invited to laugh at the use of luxury or imported goods such as perfume and tobacco. Since English dramatists were much more interested in representing the the wind-powered technology of sailing, windmills were perhaps also considered unexciting, even boring: a familiar feature of the domestic landscape, rather than a potential route to future overseas expansion. Given Shakespeare’s literary dominance, however, this gap in the dramatic representation of windmills may mean that we are today more likely to underestimate the scale and scope of their historical presence in the English natural and built landscape.

If what we read plays a role in how we think about the past, it may even be that this long-ago tendency to ignore or mock windmills could impact contemporary efforts by the advocates of wind power to appeal to heritage arguments for the introduction of wind turbines, as wind power establishes itself as the leading source of renewable energy in the UK and beyond. More attention to how our literary and historical heritage may shape modern attitudes to renewable energy, as well as initiatives to tackle climate change, will help us to better understand how the past can speak not only to the present, but also the future. As the heritage sector addresses the challenges posed by climate change and engages in debates about renewable technologies in the context of listed buildings, conversation areas, and Word Heritage sites, such conversations can inform our approach to heritage management and sustainability.

Written by Dr Chloe Preedy, Senior Lecturer in English, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus

Why might someone want to work in heritage consultancy?

The University of Exeter is offering all new students enrolling on its MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy programme in September 2018 a £1,000 tuition fee discountRead more and apply now.

Heritage is a diverse field, and while we are all aware of the jobs available in heritage bodies such as Historic England, English Heritage, and the National Trust, there is a growing field of opportunity for heritage consultants. This ranges from individuals who act as consultants, providing bespoke pieces of research and work for clients who may include museums, heritage organisations, art galleries, and science centres, such as Emmie Kell Consulting; to companies of consultants who offer a body of expertise, such as Cotswold Archaeology who specialise in heritage and archaeology.

There are also permanent professional roles in non-heritage organisations that are also called ‘heritage consultants’. This may be a few individuals or a team of heritage consultants working in the private sector, a blue chip company, a think tank, NGO or charity. For example, Atkins is an international design, engineering and project management consultancy that has a dedicated heritage team that ‘assists business, industry, and government in meeting regulatory permitting and compliance requirements when a project impacts or has the potential to impact historically significant cultural resources’.

Heritage consultants get to work on a great diversity of projects making their daily working exciting, innovative and rewarding. It is a great way to gain a portfolio of experience and skills, working locally, nationally or internationally.

Written Dr Bryony Onciul, Director of the MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy and Senior Lecturer in Public History, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus

Three tips on building a career in international heritage management

The University of Exeter is offering all new students enrolling on its MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy programme in September 2018 a £1,000 tuition fee discount. Read more and apply now.

1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. What fields of heritage management are you interested in? Do you think you’d enjoy the practical, day-to-day elements of being a heritage consultant as well as the theoretical aspects of public history?

There is no set career path in heritage, which can be daunting for some, but liberating for others. I stumbled into heritage management because of my archaeological and anthropological work in southern Africa. My first degree was in history, and my MA was in Heritage and Museum Studies. Doing fieldwork and volunteering in countries outside of Europe not only gives you a taste of what it’s like to work with diverse groups – often with vastly different, and even sometimes irreconcilable worldviews – but it also helps you identify what you’re good at. This in turn will allow you to target specific companies and institutions within heritage sectors – both in the UK and abroad – when you are applying for jobs.

2. Network! I’d also thought I wasn’t cut out for networking. Surely all the big names in the heritage sector were fed up of overly-eager and recently-qualified graduates introducing themselves at events and sending emails asking about upcoming opportunities? It turns out, however, that most of the established experts who pull the strings (and often control the purse strings) are affable, approachable, and keen to meet new people – especially if they are passionate about their subject and heritage in general.

Word of mouth is a powerful tool. Heritage experts in the UK often know and collaborate with heritage experts overseas. If someone that is respected by colleagues endorses you, it’s likely that you’re more than half way to making it onto a future employer’s shortlist, whether in the UK or abroad.

3. Gain extra qualifications, and volunteer. In addition to courses like the University of Exeter’s new MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy, volunteering is an excellent idea – especially because many of your competitors will likely have done the same. Volunteering – both in the UK and abroad – not only provides you with invaluable new experiences and a chance to identify your strengths and weaknesses, it also helps you expand your professional network. Most of all, working abroad is rewarding, and fun!

Written by Dr Jamie Hampson, Senior Lecturer in Heritage, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus

How to Become a Heritage Consultant

The University of Exeter is offering all new students enrolling on its MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy programme in September 2018 a £1,000 tuition fee discountRead more and apply now.

How to Become a Heritage Consultant

A Heritage Consultant brings expert advice and practice to museums, the built environment — including buildings, ruins and historic areas — and other heritage contexts and projects.

The work itself varies considerably depending on the project. It might involve developing tourism strategies, archive design, planning, project management, interpretation, access planning, visitor research, or assistance with funding applications.

Heritage consultants can work within an organisation (including NGOs) freelance or as an employee of a consultancy firm. Large consultancies may have a team of professionals with expertise in tourism, archaeology, museum, conservation, historic buildings or architecture.

As there is no set career pathway to follow for those wanting to become a Heritage Consultant, most of those currently working in the role will have followed a different path and will have different areas of focus or specialisms. This is part of what makes the field so interesting.

Studying Heritage Management

Heritage consultancy is a balance of disciplines, for example history, archaeology, and geography. For this reason many students study Heritage Consultancy as an MA after completing a degree in a related subject such as History, Politics, English, Geography, Archaeology, Art History or Architecture. An MA will offer theoretical and methodological training as well as hands-on experience working in a range of contexts.

During their studies many students will focus in on a particular area of Heritage Management or an overlapping field which interests them. This may set the tone for the type of organisation they wish to work for following graduation. Work placements allow students to gain an understanding of career paths which may interest them.

Finding a Role

The wide range of roles in the sector mean that there is no single approach when it comes to finding a Heritage Management job. Having the experience of a work placement (as part of an MA or separately) will show that you have a practical, as well as theoretical, understand of the field.

When applying for a role you’ll need to show a clear understanding of the theory of Heritage Management as well as an ability to undertake clear and methodical research. Demonstrating how Heritage can be a lens through which to consider current global challenges will show that you understand the wider context of the discipline.

Summary: How to Become a Heritage Consultant

  • There is no set career pathway.
  • Heritage consultancy is a balance between various disciplines, such as history, archaeology, and geography.
  • You need the tools to understand the history of a site, and a holistic understanding of its context today.
  • Expand your knowledge and experience in related disciplines to improve your ability as a practitioner, and make it easier to land a job as a Heritage Consultant.
  • You can develop expertise in heritage by studying a Master’s degree, such as the MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy at the University of Exeter.

What is Heritage Management?

The University of Exeter is offering all new students enrolling on its MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy programme in September 2018 a £1,000 tuition fee discountRead more and apply now.

What is Heritage Management?

“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.” – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The term ‘heritage’ has various interpretations, which ultimately depend on the background and interests of the stakeholder.

It can be tangible or intangible, movable or immovable, old or new, owned privately, communally, corporately, or not at all.

In the past, heritage ‘properties’ were often thought of as individual buildings or monuments, such as churches and temples. Today it is generally recognised that the whole environment (or site) of a heritage property is important and has been influenced by its interaction with humanity.

You may be familiar with World Heritage sites like the Angkor Temples, the Great Barrier Reef, Yellowstone National Park, Stonehenge, and the Galapagos Islands.

Whilst physical structures generally come to mind when considering heritage, intangible forms are equally important in many cultures. Intangible heritage represents the living culture of communities, it’s components of its intrinsic identity, and its uniqueness and distinctiveness in comparison with all other human groups.

Why Manage Heritage?

The broadening of properties under the heritage ‘umbrella’ has dramatically increased the number of places and landscapes that require preservation, stewardship, and promotion.

There has also been an increase in complexities and threats to heritage properties in recent times, such as tourism, climate change, human conflict, and resource constraints.

The practice of heritage management might involve strategic and financial planning, disaster preparation, and people, project and site management.

It might also include fundraising, arts sponsorship, external funding, and the marketing of heritage sites.

Ultimately, heritage management is the practice of preserving, protecting and promoting heritage in its various forms.

The Past, Present, and Future

Heritage shapes people’s lives, feelings, emotions, hopes, and memories. It can teach us about cultures and peoples of the past… how they lived, the challenges they faced, and how they overcame them.

Heritage is also, therefore, a powerful lens through which to extract lessons from the past. Importantly, those lessons can be applied to understand and tackle present and future world challenges, such as climate change, migration, conflict, and decolonisation.

Sources and Further Reading

MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy at the University of Exeter

UNESCO website: http://whc.unesco.org/

UNESCO Guide — Managing Cultural World Heritage: http://whc.unesco.org/en/managing-cultural-world-heritage/

Lenzerini F. Intangible Cultural Heritage: The Living Culture of Peoples. European Journal of International Law, Volume 22, Issue 1, 1 February 2011, Pages 101–120.