What do our archaeology graduates do after they leave the University of Manchester? #6 Ian’s story

By John Piprani

In this the final part of my examination of what UoM Archaeology graduates are doing now. I met Ian Trumble at Bolton Museum when I was recording an artefact within their collection he has remained within Greater Manchester and is now working within heritage.


What are you doing now?Capture3

I completed an undergraduate Archaeology degree at UoM, with a focus on British Prehistory and graduated in 2008. I went on to do a Masters in Landscape Archaeology at Sheffield in 2010-12 whilst already working within Bolton museum. Currently I’m Collections Access Officer (curator) for Archaeology, Egyptology and World Cultures at Bolton Library and Museum Services. At the moment I’m working on a multi-million pound redevelopment of the museum and the #BoltonsEgypt project, curating the new Ancient Egypt galleries which are due to open later in 2018. Aside to that I’m also working on a redisplay of Bolton’s local archaeology, inserting prehistory into the local timeline displays. I also get to keep my hand in with a bit of practical archaeology when doing watching briefs for the council for any work at our two historic medieval halls; Hall I’th’Wood and Smithills Hall.

Outside of work I am Chair of Bolton Archaeology and Egyptology Society, and on the committee for Wigan Archaeological Society, the Council for British Archaeology North West and the NW Industrial Archaeology Panel. At weekends I’m also Leader of Greater Manchester Young Archaeologists Club.

What is the best bit about your job?

For me I think there are 2 best best bits (out of many!):

  1. Creative freedom – Working with some absolutely amazing collections, as well as a bunch of super passionate people curating them, means that it doesn’t take much to get the creative juices flowing. I’m lucky that as a team we are respected enough to have the freedom to be creative, meaning we can interpret the collections in new and interesting ways.
  2. The public – I absolutely love working with the public. Engagement is a big part of my job, the Collections Access Officer title has replaced the old curator title at Bolton. I think the reason I love working in museums stems from my love to teach (I was training as a Primary teacher before switching to archaeology).

What is the worst aspect!

Having creative freedom in a job does mean that self-imposed goals can sometimes be a little demanding. At times I might bite off a bit more than I can chew in one 7 hour day, and I’m a bit of a perfectionist… so 2am in-bed exhibition designing is all too commonplace! However, I love my job and I’m really passionate about it, so I can’t really say there are too many bad bits!

How well did UoM prepare you for your current role?

I never actually wanted to work in museums… I originally wanted to be a commercial archaeologist. Being at Manchester led me down a different path, one which I never looked back on. Parts of the course which were based in The Manchester Museum opened my eyes to a career in museums, and the ability to volunteer in museums was a big part of it too. The Manchester course was crucial, with just the right balance of theoretical archaeology and material culture studies, paving the way for me to interpret the collections I now work with.

What was the most valuable aspect of your education to you?

Again I’m indecisive… The two most valuable aspects to me were:

  1. Direction without restriction –Manchester (and later Sheffield) helped direct my learning, but with enough freedom to direct part of it myself.
  2. Access to knowledge – the biggie for me was being taught by (and continue to work with) some absolute archaeological legends. The knowledge and support I gained from the lecturers really did underpin my career development. I’m totally indebted to Dr Chantal Conneller, Dr Mel Giles, Dr Elizabeth Healey and Dr Hannah Cobb (plus many more!), without them I would have found it much more difficult to develop as an archaeologist.

What is the most important advice you would give to a younger you wanting to work in archaeology?

Do, do, DO! I think we’d all agree in an ideal world we would all love to see archaeology be regarded as important a job as teaching or healthcare. In reality though, given today’s financial and political climate, that isn’t going to happen any time soon. Get involved. If you’re passionate then channel that passion into the things that you’re interested in. Join clubs and societies. Volunteer at museums or with archaeological companies. Don’t be afraid to shout about what you do (without being irritating!). If you’re good at it then let people know. You have to make people aware of what you do, and I think that’s a major way to succeed in the sector – particularly museums. Jobs in archaeology and museums are not that easy to come by, but they are available with hard work and determination, and the job satisfaction at the end of it makes it all worth it!

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