Graduated: BA History
Company: Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
After graduating from the BA History in 2003, Sandra has been able to directly transfer many of the skills she learnt whilst at UEA to her role as an archivist.
Tell us about your career to date?
I am a professional archivist and manage original historical records. I began my career in Cambridge in 2004, at the Churchill Archives Centre. They have the papers of some well-known politicians including Sir Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and John Major. I was fortunate enough to work with many of these records, providing researchers with guidance and undertaking cataloguing and digitisation projects.
My professional interests have centred on scientific records, partly fuelled by my study of the history of medicine at UEA. In 2008 I worked at the British Antarctic Survey, on a project to review old paper records which included Antarctic ship reports, accounts of disasters and publicity materials. At Birkbeck College University of London, I catalogued the papers of the academic and George Orwell biographer Bernard Crick.
My latest post is back in Cambridge at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.
I have been organising the museums legacy records, which go back to the seventeenth century. They include hand-written fossil catalogues, sketches, geologists and palaeontologist's expedition notebooks, maps and photographs.
Why did you decide to study at UEA?
I just felt instantly at home at UEA as soon as we were shown around. The module options in history covered the areas I was most interested in, and I was able to take a politics module in my second year too. After seeing the various accommodation options, talking with students, seeing the library and other facilities, I never looked back.
Studying history at UEA was varied, and always surprising. Lecturers had a passion for their area of expertise and seminars were a good mix of student and staff participation.
How did you get your first job?
I had been an ‘Archives Official' at secondary school, helping to sort the old school records, so I pondered this as a career option and undertook some voluntary work at the Houses of Parliament. This was very eye opening, so I applied for Archives Assistant posts and finally got a post at Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge.
Meanwhile, I studied part-time for my Master's in Archives and Records Management at University College London. This involved invigilating researchers, answering enquiries about the rich and varied collections, listing collections, preparing material for exhibitions and displays, and providing media companies with images.
I was lucky to work here and met some amazing and interesting people. I even met the first president of Zambia.
How has your history degree helped you?
As an archivist my ability to undertake research is vital. I know where to look for information, and what sources could be useful. This enables me to provide a comprehensive service to researchers, as they often rely on my advice when planning their research activities.
Studying a range of periods and topics has been very useful when working with twentieth century records, as I have done throughout my career. I have been able to utilise my interest in science and medical history, working with the records of biologists, physicists, geologists and explorers!
What has been your greatest achievement in your career so far?
I gave a talk in Barcelona in 2009 at the International Scientific Archives Conference about how scientists view their record keeping. The conference generated some great discussions, and Barcelona was a fabulous backdrop.