Roman Society museum internship 2017: English Heritage, Properties Historians team
I was lucky enough to have been selected for the English Heritage internship at their offices in London. As a student going into my second year studying Classical Civilisation at the University of Warwick and being undecided on my future, I was curious to see what a career as a properties historian was like. Furthermore, English Heritage really appealed to me as its role in looking after fifty key Roman sites has a hugely important function in helping to both conserve and teach current and futuregenerations about Roman Britain.
My placement at English Heritage lasted three weeks, during which timeI completed a variety of tasks under the supervision of Dr Andrew Roberts. I was able to attend a number of meetings alongside Dr Roberts, ranging from team meetings of historians to meetings with designers. Furthermore, I was privileged enough to have had the opportunity of going on a trip to York for a team meeting at the Heritage offices there, then to Newcastle where I was able to see at first hand a part of Dr Robert’s tour of the Housesteads site off Hadrian’s Wall. In preparation for this talk, I researched the importance of religion during the Roman military occupation of the region. Accompanying Dr Roberts gave me a glimpse of the number of different rolesand skills involved in being a properties historian. I saw the dedication, attention to historical detail and teamwork needed, gathering expertisefrom many different individuals todesign projects such as Birdoswald.
One of my favourite parts of the internship was being able to help Dr Roberts in briefing illustrators on certain objects that were to be included in the Birdoswaldexhibiton. For example, I spent time in both the Institute of Classical Studies in London and the Library of Archaeology in University College London researching Cartimandua, the Iron Age queen, and Caratacus, the British rebel, who she handed over to the Romans. This was to help provide accurate historical references for an image of them which is to be depicted on a panel at the Birdoswald site. I found this task especially rewarding as I was contributing to something that would eventually be viewed by the general public. Another aspect of my placement was researching the reception of classical antiquity in the 20th Century author Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel “The Lantern Bearers”. I was given freedom and some creative licence to develop my ideas and thoughts about how Homer’s Odyssey in particular helped shape and drive the novel. During my research for this, I was able to go to the University Library in Cambridge.
This internship has helped me develop my research skills as well as given me insight into what a future in academia would be like. I was given items to research such as Roman bedding on Hadrian’s Wall which was challenging due to the lack of evidence on the subject,as well as researching what mile castles on the wall might have looked like, which involved me reading an archaeological report. It has greatly expanded the horizons of my research methods and I will definitely be taking these skills with me into my second year at university.
Last but certainly not least, I would like to take this opportunity to thank both the Roman Society for providing me the opportunity to intern at a major historical site and Dr Roberts at English Heritage for letting me into his day-to-day working life. It has been an altogether invaluable experience and I have relishedthe privilege of a behind-the-scenes view of what goes on in the working world in the heritage sector. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here- it has definitely fuelled my interest in a career in the historical sector.