MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies - Abigail Obene
Years at UEA
Abigail Obene studied the MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies course.
We spoke to her about her work placement with the Sainsbury Centre, as well as other heritage projects she has worked on.
What course did you study before joining the MA programme at UEA?
I studied History at the University of Bristol.
While I was there, I realised that I was interested in complex cultural interactions and how heritage, and particularly colonial history, influences everyday behaviours.
What drew you to study at UEA?
The course description had the focus that I was interested in, as a lot of the other courses I had looked at focused on other areas.
The fact that this course has a placement also provided an opportunity to gain experience while you are on the course. UEA had been my second choice for my undergraduate degree as well. I had already been to Norwich a few times to visit friends and really liked it, so it all seemed to fall into place.
What was your experience on the work placement?
We were given a list of options for placements to pick from, with the opportunity to work elsewhere if nothing particularly appealed to us.
I ended up doing my placement at the Sainsbury Centre - which was fantastic as it was my first choice. So, for three weeks, I helped to conduct research for an upcoming exhibition.
I have also continued to be involved with the Sainsbury Centre after my placement ended and recently had the opportunity to help them set up an exhibit in person. I was eager to physically be there and experience putting up an exhibit and working with other people in person, so that was extremely beneficial.
How did the placement make you feel more prepared for your future career?
It has given me a lot of confidence in my research abilities and learning how to present my findings to colleagues in a professional environment.
I also gained confidence in being able to point out when tasks that I was assigned were not physically doable or needed to be altered, and I was able to adapt them to be more successful. In the three- week period I learnt how to ask for help, but also how to push back when I needed to.
Did you pursue any other employability opportunities outside of your degree?
During my second term I took part in a project called the i-Teams Heritage Project, in which you help an organisation or a charity with a project that they want to work on.
I worked with a group of other students to help the Norwich Theatre to digitise its archive. It was great to work in a team, and to bounce ideas off each other and adapt to each other's strengths and weaknesses. I also did some volunteering during my undergraduate degree, as I volunteered with the Devon Heritage Centre to help with digital organisation, curation, and restoration.
What has the process been like in terms of researching and writing your dissertation?
My dissertation is about the process of grief and how museum spaces can or cannot help with that, while also looking at museums in the past two years relating to the Black Lives Matter movement and the situation with COVID-19.
Most of the time that you are allocated for the dissertation is spent researching and working with your supervisor so that you are fully prepared to begin writing. The dissertation itself is 11,000 words, with an extra 1000 words of notes and references.
How are you feeling about graduating from UEA? What are your plans for the future?
I definitely want to work in the heritage sector, preferably in museums.
However, I do not have any specific ideas because I am mainly focused on just getting a foot in the door. It can be very competitive getting a job in the heritage sector upon graduation, so I am willing to throw myself into whatever opportunity I am able to get, because it will all be valuable experience.
What advice would you give to people who are considering studying this course?
My main advice would be to find volunteering or work opportunities outside of your degree because you will come out the other side with so much valuable experience.
It is especially important to find opportunities in a field that you are interested in and want to pursue a career in, because that will be even more rewarding. Finding jobs when you graduate is so competitive that having extra experience outside of your degree really makes you stand out.
The other piece of advice that I would give is to really throw yourself into this degree, and to talk to your professors whenever you feel like you need advice or help. If something sounds like a stupid idea, ask your professors for their opinion - and then maybe do it anyway, because it will probably be a valuable learning experience!