More about Simon
Current Job Title: Curator of Collections, Newstead Abbey and Project Curator, National Justice Museum
Tell us why you chose to study at NTU?
I am the first member of my family that has had the opportunity to go to university, I knew how big an opportunity it was. I wanted to study geography, as it was a subject I’d enjoyed at A-level. The course at NTU looked interesting, so I included it in my list. I also studied the gig guide in the NME and Rock City was a call on every tour!
How would you describe your experience of studying at Nottingham Trent University?
I loved every minute. Clifton Campus is a beautiful place to live and study. The course was interesting and absorbing, and I made many friends here. Nottingham is a brilliant city, I felt at home here very quickly.
Studying Heritage Studies was a revelation for me. I had never felt welcome in museums or art galleries before, but the course gave me the opportunity to spend time in places such as Nottingham Castle, and I soon fell in love with what museums can do for the public.
What did you enjoy most about living in Nottingham?
I love the city. I still live here, it’s my home now. It’s a very different city to Leeds, where I grew up. There is a tangible atmosphere of creativity and togetherness- I have always felt supported here. I have run club nights, DJed and played in a band here since I graduated. Nottingham will always be a supportive place to be creative. I also met my wife at NTU, she studied English here at the same time. She now works in the library at Clifton Campus, and we have two sons together.
How did you go about getting your first job? Did the support offered at NTU help you?
I worked in retail immediately after graduating, in a bookshop. This was a valuable experience in working with the public every day, and in managing people and resources. My lecturers were very supportive in keeping an eye out for opportunities for me, as a way of getting experience. It is very hard to get into work in museums so that support was invaluable.
When I started working in the museums sector I had many opportunities to work with NTU again, providing support for current students.
What does your current role involve? Describe a typical day at work.
I’m responsible for the collection at Newstead Abbey, and how it is presented to the public. Newstead was the home of the brilliant and notorious poet Lord Byron in the early 19th century. Much of my work involves planning exhibitions and displays, particularly at the moment as we are developing two new galleries here. I also have to do a lot of work to maintain and document the collection correctly.
I am constantly in dialogue with people all over the country about the use of the collection, research, loans and other work. I also do a lot of public speaking about Newstead and museums in general.
What attracted you to this field of work?
When I first started at NTU I began to spend a lot of time in museums, and found myself becoming increasingly absorbed in what they can do. Museums are public spaces, and can have huge power in bringing people together for a shared experience- be that an educational one, or simply for enjoyment.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
I’ve worked on many community projects where I have seen the emotional effect that museum collections can have. I have worked with a handling collection in running sessions for people living with dementia, for example. We can facilitate a real sense of connection, and it’s a privilege to be able to do that in whatever context.
In April last year I was elected to the board of the Museums Association (MA), which is a huge honour for me and for museums in Nottingham. The MA is a membership body for people working in museums across the UK, with around 8,000 members. We advocate for the museums sector and support our members to make their museums as great as possible.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced since graduating?
It can be difficult to get work in the sector, as there is so much demand. It was difficult finding my first job, and entry level positions are rarely full time and permanent. That experience has made me better at what I do now, though.
How have your studies contributed to your career / current successes?
I learned a lot at NTU about how museums have developed over time, and how they can contribute to public life. I am always applying that learning in my work.
Do you have any advice to share with new graduates or other alumni?
If you want to work in museums then seek out voluntary opportunities as a way of learning the ropes- most museums only ask for around an afternoon a month, and it’s a great way of meeting people and learning about the sector.