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Creative Careers: Spotlight on Heritage #NoWrongPath

A blog post by Lisa Snedden

As part of Discover! Creative Careers Scotland we are shining a light on the cultural heritage sector this week. Here our Heritage Officer, Lisa Snedden outlines why there is #NoWrongPath, how she found her way to working with us and supporting people to understand their cultural and environmental heritage.

Can you please introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

I’m a Heritage Officer at Keep Scotland Beautiful.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Music, Drama and Latin 

When did you decide that you wanted to work within the Creative and Cultural Heritage Industries and what influenced that decision?

I moved into the Cultural Heritage Industry in 2014. I had been teaching in rural Perthshire and was seconded to develop outdoor learning across the authority for just over a year. Having been in such a role, I found it difficult to settle back into the classroom so began exploring other options.

What did your career path look like?

My undergraduate qualification was in psychology but when I graduated none of the relevant jobs appealed to me. At the time my mum was a headteacher and there was a national teaching shortage, so I decided to retrain and do the one-year teacher training course at Dundee. I quickly settled into teaching and enjoyed the challenges it presented, I particularly liked working outdoors with young people and decided to further my training to become a Forest School teacher. In 2012 I was seconded for a year as one of three Outdoor Learning Development Officers. In this role I worked with teachers to help them develop their own skills and boost their confidence to take pupils outdoors. When this secondment ended, I struggled back in the classroom and found it too restrictive. I came across an advert for a Learning and Interpretation Officer with the Tay Landscape Partnership, which had a strong focus on lifelong and outdoor learning. Being immersed in projects that focused on the cultural heritage of the Tay allowed me to explore interests in built and landscape heritage, archaeology and biodiversity. From there I have remained in the industry working as a Canal Heritage Officer with the Scottish Waterways trust and now with Keep Scotland Beautiful on their Placemaking Through Heritage Programme.

What qualifications and experience are necessary for someone in your role?

The Placemaking Through Heritage project is focussed on working with communities to explore their heritage so it is important to have experience or qualifications in cultural heritage, working with communities and an understanding of the wider industry and the important themes within it.

What does a typical day in your work life look like?

As with most jobs in the industry there is no such thing as a typical day. At the moment, I am working closely with a primary school exploring the mining heritage of their village. To do this we have examined maps, walked around the village looking for visible remains of the industry and are creating exhibits for a pop-up museum. I am also working with some adult groups to map out a self-guided walk that will be available on the Landscape Legacies of Coal smart phone app, developed by the University of Stirling.

My next project is based on the 200th birthday of the Union Canal. I will be delivering the Cultural Heritage SVQ to a canal side group. The SVQ is designed so that people can participate in a range of heritage and traditional skills. Being based on the canal means that we will be undertaking work to improve areas around the canal. This might be the removal of overhanging vegetation, replacing concrete mortar with traditional lime, helping to restore other features such as mooring rings and railings. There is a strong emphasis on transferable skills such as team working, health and safety and communication which are developed through activities such as learning to deliver guided walks and contributing to exhibitions.

What are the best parts of your role?

I enjoy the flexibility and the wide scope of my role. The projects that I develop with communities vary so I can be working in a graveyard recording stones in one project then off lime mortaring a bridge in the next project. The nature of the project also lends itself well to collaborative working and there is no shortage of collaborative opportunities in the cultural heritage industry. Through these collaborations the communities’ benefit from another set of skills and expertise but I am also able to develop my own skills and have learned so much from industry colleagues.

What is something that has surprised you about working within the Creative and Cultural Heritage Industries or your job in particular?

The industry is vast and adaptive so I am continually surprised and inspired by other practitioners and the programmes that they develop in response to national challenges and seeing the opportunities within these challenges.

What advice would you give to a 15-year-old you about how to get started and progress in the Creative and Cultural Industries?

Start following interesting projects on social media or through their websites. Just seeing what is out there can help you to refine what it is that you want to do and what area of the industry interests you. I would also recommend that you attend conferences and talks about the areas that interest you, not only are the formal sessions of benefit but just chatting to other people in the industry during breaks will help you make contacts and you never know what opportunities they might have! 

If you would like to learn more about Lisa’s projects at Keep Scotland Beautiful check out her 
‘Getting to know…’ blog. For more on Creative Careers see Discover! Creative Careers week Scotland.

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