Catherine Lumb studied Egyptology and Anthropology at Swansea University, graduating in 2005.
Why did you decide to study at Swansea University?
It was one of the only places in Britain that combined Egyptology and Anthropology at the time, and I really wanted to study both in a good department with established staff. The fact that it had an on-campus museum that specialised in the subject I was most interested in really helped, especially when I learned that it would take on students as volunteers.
What did you enjoy most about your course at Swansea?
The people. The staff within the departments were immensely supportive, and the other students made me feel like I belonged. Most of all the Egypt Centre staff and volunteers, where I gained some of my experience made me realise I’d like to work in museums.
What are you doing now career-wise?
I am Secondary and Post-16 Co-ordinator for Humanities at the Manchester Museum where I design, develop and deliver educational workshops about the Museum’s extensive collection. I’m responsible for ensuring the workshops have great links with the collection and are relevant to the curriculum whilst also challenging student’s perception of cultural venues and allowing them to engage with subject areas they might wish to study in future.
As a member of staff at a University Museum, I also work on Widening Participation events and try and encourage pupils who would not normally consider a University career – because of background – to aspire to greater things and believe in their skills and abilities more.
How has Swansea University and your course helped you with your chosen career path?
The joint honours allowed me a huge breadth of knowledge and research capabilities that have benefitted me in life, not just within my employment. Studying Egyptology and working at the Egypt Centre demonstrated my ability to focus on a particular subject area, whereas the research skills I had to employ throughout the varied Anthropology aspect of my degree meant that I was able to comprehend complex concepts that could be transferred across many situations.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Coming up with new ways to engage teenagers with the Museum’s collection that will both educate and challenge them whilst encouraging them that museums aren’t just ‘boring places only fun for little kids’.
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
Interacting with those pupils that have changed their mind about what museums are, and hearing them theorise about objects using their existing knowledge to logically find the right answer (without being told!).
What was the best careers advice you were given?
“If you can’t find the job you want, create it” - which is what I did when I approached Kirklees Council to deliver Egyptology at Adult Education!
What advice do you have for current students and new graduates?
You have to be pro-active and really make things happen for yourself. Look for opportunities and take them where you can. Learn as much as you possibly can during your time at University because after that you have to learn on the job!
If you want to work in museums – volunteer: not just for a big, national museum, but for a local community gallery because it’s there that you learn just how significant collections can be for visitors!
What are your plans for the future?
I really adore my current role, so I hope to remain in it for as long as it is rewarding for me. However, I am attempting to write a novel – it’s always been a dream to be a published author so I’m taking my own advice and being pro-active by writing one!
What have you done that you are most proud of?
Overcoming my disability of M.E, which was diagnosed in 2009, and remaining in the job that I love. I spent 2 years battling with the awful symptoms of this incurable illness and have to live a careful balanced lifestyle to ensure that I don’t have another relapse.
What are your favourite memories of your university years at Swansea?
I LOVED being able to walk to University on the beach! I especially appreciated the opportunity the Egypt Centre offered and the support of the staff there throughout my degree; I had great fun volunteering! The social scene was also fantastic with lots to do, or alternatively you had so many great pubs to choose from in order to just sit and relax with some friends. I met some brilliant people there, who I am still friends with now – it always makes me smile to remember my time spent at Swansea.
And finally, describe yourself in 3 words…
Determined, passionate, creative.