Archaeology Student Stories

Masters Students Talk about their Professional Placement Experience

One of the aspects of the Masters course at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute that stands out for students is the opportunity to gain a professional placement in a real world, real work environment.

Each student studying for a Masters qualification is given the opportunity to gain professional placement experience – either within the University of the Highlands and Islands, ORCA or an alternative outside organisation.

Working on the Swandro Community dig

The programme ensures that the students are placed in roles which give them both responsibility and experience in areas that lie outside their usual academic studies – whether that is teaching children about archaeology on a community project or being in charge of small finds on a large scale archaeological dig. They become a valuable member of the team in the organisation and have the opportunity to incorporate their recently learned skills into the work methods of the organisation in which they were placed.

Just to give you a flavour of the sectors that our students experienced, they gained placements in the following:

  • Andy – Ness of Brodgar Dig
  • Sorcha – Kirkwall Museum
  • Freya – Highland HER and Historic Environment Team
  • Emma – Archaeobotany analysis at ORCA
  • Therese – Stirling Council
  • Steve – AOC Archaeology
  • Jasmin – The Cairns Dig
  • Kevin – Small Finds Supervisor at The Cairns Dig
  • Luke – ORCA Outreach and Community Projects and Marketing

Sorcha Kirker was given the responsibility of creating an exhibition as part of her curatorial duties at Kirkwall Museum- including liaising with the various promotional agencies involved with the museum. This exhibition presented the archaeology of The Cairns dig in a different light….including the “Archaeology of the Archaeologists”, the view from the diggers and presenting the finds unearthed during the 2016 season. The press release stated…..

Exhibition tells the story of a remarkable dig

A new exhibition at the Orkney Museum features the archaeological excavations at the Cairns Iron Age site in South Ronaldsay. The dig, which takes place each summer, is being carried out by a team from the Archaeology Institute at Orkney College UHI and has produced some remarkable finds.

The exhibition, which runs until mid-November, has been created by Sorcha Kirker, an MSc student with the University of the Highlands and Islands, as part of a placement at the museum.She said: “It tells the story of the Cairns archaeological dig – past and present – and highlights the processes involved. My aim was to provide an insight into the archaeological experience from a digger’s perspective. The placement has shown me how I can use the skills I gained on my Masters course in a real work place. I have really enjoyed working with Orkney Museum on this project and I must thank them for everything they have done. The placement has also strengthened my interest in following a museum career.”

Each student was also given the task of presenting and evaluating their experience in a seminar at the end of their placement.

And finally….Kevin Kerr added “The placement allowed me to take more responsibility. I was the Small Finds Officer for the site and I had to hit the ground running after the first few scrapes resulted in a find straight away! I ended up amending the finds register and digitised the whole process…I felt as if I was an important member of the team and gained a great deal from the experience. I must thank Martin for his guidance and for allowing me to get involved with The Cairns at this level.”