Monday, 17 September 2012

Kerry Massheder - Archaeology Career Interview

Where did you graduate and what are you doing now?
I am currently studying a PhD in Archaeology at the University of Liverpool (supervised by Dr Anthony Sinclair and Dr Graeme Milne), conducting research into the ‘housing experience’ of the working-class in the North of England during the era of the Industrial Revolution (c.1750-1900). My interest in industrial era domestic dwellings was set in motion when I worked for HAPCA, a joint venture comprising Headland Archaeology and Pre-Construct Archaeology, on the Govern Ironworks site in Glasgow, also referred to as ‘Dixon’s Blazes’, in 2007-2008 (

I am excited to be serving on the committee organising the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference (TAG2012) at the University of Liverpool in December ( and have co-organised a session with Cara Jones and Phil Richardson of Archaeology Scotland entitled ‘New approaches to archaeological outreach, engagement and ownership’. I will also present a paper within the session entitled ‘Digging up memories: Collaborations between archaeology and oral history to investigate the industrial housing experience’ (my first paper presentation - EVER!).

To fund my studies I work as a Residential Child Care Officer caring for ‘looked after’ young people with behavioural and emotional difficulties (like ‘Supernanny’ but with more paperwork!).

When you graduated were you looking for a career in archaeology?
I completed a BA (hons) in 2004 and an MA in 2006, both at the University of Liverpool, and looked for a job in archaeology almost immediately. I had volunteered at sites and in museums since I was fourteen years old (including a Time Team dig!) and was enthusiastic to get digging as a ‘professional’ archaeologist. Thankfully, a fantastic company (Headland Archaeology) took a chance on me, despite the fact that I had no previous commercial archaeology experience, and I worked on various sites in Northern Ireland and Glasgow giving me a great deal of ditch digging experience! I also worked as a field archaeologist for York Archaeological Trust (Heslington East, York), which was on my bucket list!

How has a degree in archaeology benefited your career?
I believe education is very important to the future of archaeology and hope the recent UK fee rise does not put potential students off a career in archaeology (given the fact we will never be high earners!). That said, I think increased training and work experience is the best way to ensure students are prepared for a career in archaeology. My BA and MA archaeological experience was theoretical and it was
only when I worked for a commercial archaeology company that I realised what archaeology was really all about.
I hope that my PhD will allow me to develop a variety of skills which I can apply to my career. Being a research student is a great opportunity to build contacts with students and professionals in my field; I will be approaching them for employment in a few years time!
What has been the greatest success in your career so far?
Being Site Supervisor on the ‘Dixon’s Blazes’ site in Glasgow for Headland Archaeology was a proud moment for me as a commercial archaeologist. I had the opportunity to work with and support a team of experienced, hardworking and entertaining people on a unique site with added responsibilities. This was a massive confidence boost for me and it encouraged me to return to do a PhD in Archaeology and influenced the direction of my research.

I welcome any comments regarding my research on Twitter @livuniMassheder or by e-mail

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