Welcome to Alumni Spotlight, a blog series focused on our alums – where they’ve been and where they are now. For this installment we interviewed Jenny Mathiasson.
What degree did you complete at Cardiff? Did you pursue more education after you left, in any field?
I was one of the first survivors of the then brand new MSc Conservation Practice degree! I’ve done a long distance learning course in Heritage Education since then but that’s about it. I’m a sucker for outreach so I just really wanted to add that to my conservation portfolio. Turns out talking to people is nice. Who knew?
What have you been doing since you left Cardiff? Where are you now? Are you still in the heritage sector?
I am! I’ve worked on various projects in Cardiff, Cambridge, and London since graduating and now I’m based up in South Yorkshire. I’m the conservator at Clifton Park Museum, a local authority run museum in a great big park. I also run Clifton Conservation Service which is based there.
Have you done any freelance work? If so can you tell us about your experiences in the private sector?
I do a bit of freelancing and I really enjoy commercial work. Part of my job is actually commercial: I’m the museum’s conservator half the time and a scalpel for hire on behalf of my employer the rest of the time (another income stream for the museum).
I mostly work with other local authority museums aiming to display something extra special for an exhibition, and with members of the public who want something precious looked after. Very different challenges but at the end of the day the conservation work is really, really fun.
What have been the highlights of your career so far? What are your favourite projects that you have worked on?
How do you even pick one? I’ve not done anything massively high-profile so I think it’s all a mosaic of great projects for me. Also I apparently give a great answer to ‘What did you do at work today?’ because my job is so varied. (Popular example answers include: Dyed an otter. Held a 12,000 year old skull. Packed a 3 metre long spear.)
How has your Cardiff degree impacted your career?
It gave me confidence, practical experience, and some wicked problem-solving skills. Those are all vital to anyone who wants to get anywhere in conservation, I think.
What was your favourite aspect of the programme? Is there anything you would change?
Well we were the guinea pig generation so anything that we wanted changed will have changed now! Our feedback will have formed what you guys are experiencing today in many ways (just as your feedback will shape the programme in the future). I always enjoyed the variety of objects we saw in the lab: my workbench is just as mismatched and wonderfully odd today as I work with really eclectic collections!
If there is anything else you’d like to mention now is your chance. Plug your book or podcast! Share a picture of your cat! Share your most recent conference selfie!
Hey, funny you should mention podcast: I’m actually one of the people behind The C Word: The Conservators’ Podcast. Go give us a listen if you’re into that sort of thing. We’re really relaxed and cover a wide range of topics.