21 April 2023

UEA memories and working in heritage

Adam Baker standing in front of the oceanAdam Baker studied BA History and MA Culturage Heritage and Museum Studies at UEA from 2015-2019. Since then, Adam worked at Harlow Museum before working as an Online Communities Coordinator at Norfolk Community Foundation. Adam is also a founder and volunteer for the Queer Norfolk Heritage project. 

I liked [Norwich] so much I came back! It has a wonderful independent spirit and a welcoming atmosphere. Its great institutions and civic-mindedness was a huge draw for me, especially with my interest in culture and heritage.

What have you been up to since you graduated?

2015-2018: Undergraduate BA History at UEA
2018-2019: Postgraduate MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at UEA
2019-2020: Employed at a sports store while volunteering at Harlow Museum
2020-2021: Employed at Harlow Museum (Museum Assistant)
2021-       : Online Communities Coordinator at Norfolk Community Foundation
2022-       : Founder and Volunteer for the Queer Norfolk heritage project

What was your ambition for your career when you started at UEA? Did you have a specific career path in mind?

I did not have a specific career in mind when I started at UEA. Studying history in Norwich gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of heritage and, consequently, I began volunteering for various heritage projects in Norwich and Norfolk. Enjoying this, I then undertook a MA in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at UEA to further develop these skills and expand my knowledge.

Tell me about your experiences studying at UEA.

I first found out about UEA when looking at University league tables for History. UEA had a very high research rating and student satisfaction rating for History, so put it down as a choice without having visited first. When I was offered a conditional place, I decided to attend a taster day and fell in love immediately. I could feel a genuine passion for the subject and the surroundings from every faculty member I spoke with on the day, and it sold me on studying history at UEA. Studying History at UEA was a great pleasure and I feel lucky to have been able to access first-rate facilities and excellent teaching staff. The course material was always interesting, well put-together, and led to engaging and lively discussions during seminars. There were ample opportunities to develop my critical thinking and analytical skills. For me, the lectures were the highlight of the course. Forever engaging and insightful, the provided a rich immersion and understanding of history in a way that simply cannot be understated; they made it come alive.

In your career what key tasks & skills are involved on a day-to-day basis, and what are/have been the most rewarding/challenging aspects?

In my current role as Online Communities Coordinator, I undertake a diverse range of tasks including written, audio and visual communication to targeted audiences. I must be diligent, accurate and articulate in the way I communicate. I make continual use of common office software packages, as well as specialist photo and video editing software that I used while on placements during my MA. Thinking around telling stories in an engaging way (again part of my MA) is vital to my current work.

In my previous role as a Museum Assistant, I directly used management skills and academic learning acquired during my degree. My undergraduate degree was highly useful when conducting local historical research and my masters in presenting this to an audience.

Within the sectors I have worked in, the most challenging aspects are related to the high level of skill required to do the job compared to the low levels of pay on offer - even for senior roles. It has been rewarding to work my way up in my current role, and this is largely due to the confidence and proficiency I gained during my degree.

Has your degree influenced your career? 

My choices of degrees have undoubtedly influenced my career. My choice of history at undergraduate level fueled my interest and led me to explore more career options that I was not previously even aware of or had seriously entertained as prospects for my own future employment. My MA gave me a strong foundation and edge when applying for roles when my time at UEA was at an end.

What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the heritage project I started when I returned to Norwich after the Covid-19 lockdowns ended - Queer Norfolk. This project has led me to speak at academic conferences and also be nominated for awards. Bringing other volunteers on board with the project and securing year-on-year funding for its continued development has also been a huge achievement.  

What were your experiences of Norwich as a city? 

I liked it so much I came back! It has a wonderful independent spirit and a welcoming atmosphere. Its great institutions and civic-mindedness was a huge draw for me, especially with my interest in culture and heritage. 

Would you recommend studying at UEA? Why?

I would recommend studying at UEA. The HIS and AMA departments that I studied in during my two degrees offered a plethora of choice and freedom when it came to pursuing my interests and goals, and the teaching and resources are first-rate. The flexibility of the institution is also to be admired, and the focus on student welfare was also appreciated. The range of student-led activities was also impressive.

Is there any advice you would give to current students, wishing to follow a similar career path to you?

Try everything while you have the chance! Giving things a go while I had the freedom (and funding) as a student meant that I could explore alternative career paths before committing to heritage; I found out just as much about what I did not want to do as finding out what I loved. Get involved in things that the university hosts, whether this is societies or faculty projects with students. I would also recommend being realistic when choosing a career in heritage. I found it difficult as someone from my background to work in the field so be sure to research expected salaries carefully and be realistic about what you can feasibly do.

What is next for you?

I hope to return to the heritage field when a suitable position becomes available locally. In the meantime, I will continue to progress with the Queer Norfolk project.

Adam studied BA History and MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at UEA.