Following an extremely popular talk I gave on Eric Ravilious, hearing of the announcement of Art Fund plans to extend its discounted rate for young people, and reading Fiona Reynolds’ article that investigates the part we all have to play in our shared heritage, I take a look at ways you can get involved in the heritage sector.
The American author Steve Berry described how ‘a concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.’ But we can only preserve our heritage if everyone feels like they can become involved – so here are some ideas for how you can get involved in the heritage sector.
1) Find out what’s on at your local museum or library. The best – and often easiest – place to start is with what is local to you. Check out the websites for museums and libraries in your area, give them a call, or, even better, pop in and see them! Local museums and libraries often hold talks, local history groups, and a plethora of other events, right on your doorstep. These events are a great way to meet other people, try out several different (and often quirky) subjects, and maybe learn something new.
2) Join your local history group or archaeological society. Most towns and counties have local history groups and/or archaeological societies. Membership is usually very reasonable, and gives you access to many different things, including talks, family events, guided history walks, and if they own a heritage site – access to that. You might even be able to join in with archaeological digs or historic research via your local history group or archaeological society!
3) Sign up for an online MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of free online courses available to the public. There are many different sites offering courses on everything from heritage to humanism and yaks to yoga. FutureLearn is one of the best and most comprehensive I’ve seen. I’ve taken a couple of their courses myself and can attest to the high quality of them – some have even been produced by universities.
4) Volunteering! Take a look online, or contact heritage sites directly, to see if there is any volunteering available at heritage sites in your area. Volunteering allows you to get directly involved in your local heritage sector. These roles can be everything from working in an archaeological field unit as a volunteer, to cataloguing, to social media.
5) Use social media. One of the positive aspects of social media is that you can follow people who regularly post about what you are interested in – and yes, that includes heritage! Twitter allows you to follow people working in the heritage sector and follow discussion in real time; on Facebook, you can join subject specific groups. [If you’d like to dip your toes, do join The Heritage Hoot, a heritage oriented Facebook group that I help to run.]
I hope this helps you to get started on your heritage journey, or gives those of you already on it some extra ideas.