The year that was, and the year that will be

2012 was a year of ups and down for me. I snapped and broke quite a lot of my collar bone, and shoulder area on the 1st January and was left without the use of my arm for a good while, I think I managed to work the sling look, but I couldn’t quite escape looking like a wounded duck with a broken wing.  My Mam was incredibly poorly at the beginning of the year, and that shook me to my core.  It is something that I don’t/can’t/won’t think or write about.  It’s too hard.  So the lows were low, but the up’s were ridiculously high. I won Public Engager of the Year and QRator won the Museums and Heritage Award for Excellence in the Innovation Category – the team got to dress up! I had a snazzy red dress (which a waiter poured a jug of milk over, not the best form of celebration) and a QR code temporary Tattoo.  I also learnt to ski in Lake Tahoe, went on a road trip though California, got a personal trainer and started attending boot camps.  I’m the fittest I have ever been. Exercise has always been my way of processing all my academic thoughts, putting things into perspective.

Here’s a list of things, places and projects I’ve done this year:

Places visited

San Francisco, California

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

Truckee, California

Selma, California

Yosemite National Park, California

San Diego, California

Barcelona, Spain

Hamburg, Germany


Conferences Attended

Museums and the Web 2012

Museum Next 2012

Engaging Digital Audiences in Museums

Digital Humanities 2012

Digital Transformations Workshop (x 2)

Museum Association Joy of Text Event

UK Museums on the Web 2012


Museums and Galleries visited

Grant Museum

UCL Art Museum

Wellcome Collection

Imperial War Museum London

Imperial War Museum North

HMS Belfast

Horniman Museum

Museum of Brands

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Contemporary

New Art Exchange

The Baltic

The Biscuit Factory

The Laing Art Gallery


Museum Picasso

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD)

San Diego Air and Space Museum


Projects, and Committee Work


Social Interpretation

Totem Labs

Share Academy

Digital Learning Network

Ignite London

Engagement Advisory Board and Research Panel of the Horniman Museum and Gardens’ Collections, People, Stories project.

Behind all of this, and the driving force for everything is my PhD. I’m now in my final year, year 3 – pulling all of my previous research, data collection and thinking together and writing it all up. I like being busy, and enjoy new challenges, so trying to keep the focus on my PhD has been hard. I’m incredibly bad at saying no. Moving to Nottingham at the end of 2011 was an attempt to be out of sight out of mind, so people wouldn’t be able to ask me to do exciting things, and I could focus solely on my PhD. But the yeses still came, and I got to do some pretty cool stuff, meet and work with brilliant people, and learn new things.  Trying to balance the research, the writing, the project work, the professional experience and normal life things, is something I really struggle with.     I’ve really enjoyed my data collection, flexing my thinking muscles and working on new projects. But my work and research in 2012 led to multiple crises of confidence and an every growing feeling of impostor syndrome.

The sad reality is that today a PhD won’t get you a job.  I’ve always wanted to go into an academic post, so I can bring my own brand of enthusiasm to new minds, but realistically a good academic post is very hard to find.  You need to be a known name, have experience in everything, and ultimately be exceptional. I’ve always been ambitious and a hard worker (and I have two wonderful inspiration supervisors to guide me on my way; Melissa Terras and Claire Warwick), but I’m also equally lacking in self-confidence and never think I’m good enough. Not the best mix when hoping to go out into the big bad world of academia.  But 2012 has taught me that academia might not be my only option and I’m very grateful to both Jane Audas and Martin Belam for demystifying the world of freelance work and for the digital museum community for continuing to be a source of opportunity.   2013 undoubtedly will be hard, but I’m hoping by the end of my thesis it will bring perspective, enjoyment and some easing of that impostor feeling.

Claire Warwick wrote a really great blog post about Bradley Wiggins yesterday, you might be wondering what that has to do with my PhD or academia.  But actually it has rather a lot.  Doing the impossible is possible. Claire also bought me a copy of Steve Peter’s The Chimp Paradox, which actually resonates with me quite strongly.  Oonagh Murphy has written some really good new years resolutions on her blog; I’m going to add a few of my own below taking into consideration caging chimps and world class cycling:

  1. Do Less, Better
  2. Think logically not emotionally
  3. Balance ambition with reality
  4. Enjoy the journey.
  5. Stop saying yes to everything
  6. Slow down and attend to the details. The turtle wins out over the hare.

One thought on “The year that was, and the year that will be

  1. Ahh, I love having you and Oonagh writing up your journeys and setting a similar pace to my own towards the PhD. It is just so great to hear you talk about your experiences, and for me to be able to see a mirror of myself within them. Like you, saying no to shiny distractions has been hard this past year, and focussing on the PhD often comes at the expense of things that might seem to hold more promise for the future. But we will all make it through. I’m just so grateful to have you guys working on the other side of the world that I can connect to via the magic of the Interwebs.

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