Pride and Passion: Advice from a long-term Heritage Worker

Policy Letters of Advice - Debate 2023

Richard Albanese as engineer onboard steamboat SS VIC32

Dear colleague,

I think more so now than ever before Heritage organisations need support, interest and care from individuals regardless of age, background or experience etc to keep them alive and thriving.

Heritage in all its forms needs passionate people who can play a part, either being multi disciplinary in approach or who are good at tackling single areas in detail, able to work alone or in teams, leading others or a combination. This person’s heritage journey is likely to change over time with experience, knowledge and involvement, growing to fit varied roles and increasing responsibilities, which makes for a exciting and varied career if wanted.

It’s easy to become disillusioned occasionally through lack of funds, poor direction and planning, shortages of volunteers and staff and many other day to day operational reasons. But it’s worth remembering that the sacrifices we make; such as poor pay, long hours, employment uncertainty and frustrations with our works are often balanced by fulfilment in what we go onto achieve, the heritage we help to preserve and display and the impact it has on the many visitors. We do these things because we genuinely care. There is so much opportunity and job satisfaction out there!

Younger people are needed more now than ever to help keep our wonderful museums and heritage alive, we seem to have lost their involvement  recently and there is a huge risk that many organisations won’t be able to function or deliver unless younger people become more actively involved whether as employees or as volunteers.

I have spent most of my life working in heritage fields, starting as a volunteer from the age of 12 and then working full time, part time and self employed from leaving school. I still volunteer regularly and act as a trustee for several organisations.

I have had such wonderful experiences over many years from driving, restoring and installing stationary steam engines, to being engineer on preserved sea going steam ships and boats, helping conserve archive collection objects, through to museum display, exhibition planning and design and construction of interactive exhibits. One minute I’m in a filthy boiler suit up to my neck in oily grease the next I’m at my desk tapping on my computer!

What other career could offer such a range of choices, experiences, personal development, learning and challenges, working with such a wide range of people such as volunteers, visitors and fellow colleagues?!

I wouldn’t change it for the world and certainly have no regrets!

– Richard Albanese, Project Manager – Steaming into Sustainability, London Museum of Water and Steam