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Sarah Portelli

Career Path: Project Conservator, Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre
Location: Chichester, UK

A career in conservation was a goal I always aimed for. Unfortunately, this was not possible in my home country, Malta, as there is no course in the area of conservation I wanted to learn. When I started the course at Northumbria I was working full time at an archives in Malta, and with the course being distance learning I was able to keep working.

What are you doing now?Sarah Portelli

I am currently furthering my studies in a 2nd MA in conservation of books and library materials, whilst working as a conservator at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

I knew a couple of people who were applying there, so that encouraged me to do the course together. I also knew someone who graduated from Northumbria in conservation and had a good job. Northumbria is also a university with a good reputation.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

I have a good experience studying at Northumbria and would definitely recommend it. Since I am currently studying at a different institution in the UK I have something to compare it to, and I am happy to say that I prefer Northumbria. The amount of lectures, assignments and work were structured well, but most importantly the feedback and guidance from the tutors was good and informative. The students were treated equally, encouraged and guided to succeed.

How connected was your course with industry?

Yes, we had one placement during the course which was a great experience. We were able to choose where to go and I divided my time between two institutions.

If you took on a placement during your course how did you feel this helped you in your career/ with your studies?

The placement enabled me to put the theory to practise. It is desirable to have a big budget in preventive conservation and do the best for the collections. However, in reality, this is not always an option. Most of the time you have to work with what you have and think strategically. During the placement I learnt many things, and how to use what you have in a way that it works for more than one thing. I was also involved with certain procedures of the institution, and gained experience in the work I was studying, and I would not have had the opportunity to do so if it was not for the placement.

What was the best thing about your course?

The best thing of the course was the community of good relationship between the University, tutors and students. Even though I was a distance learning student, I was invited to activities and events, so I felt involved like any other student. If I needed any advice with the dissertation or assignments, the tutors did not take long to reply. Furthermore, the most amazing thing was the graduation ceremony. I have graduated from three different institutions and the ceremony at the Northumbria was spectacular. It was not just the atmosphere on that day, the good vibes, but the final speech that struck me in an invaluable way. My mother was in tears!

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

The MA in Preventive Conservation helped me gain knowledge in preservation, which is an area that is not given much attention when studying another specialisation.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

I would suggest living in Newcastle rather than being a distance learning student. I think being able to live and study there enables you to be part of the community more, and gives you a richer experience.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Support, Friendly, Guidance

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