The North East Emerging Museum Professionals Group

18342281_419289128447568_8057625872647443527_nThe North East Emerging Museum Professionals Group (NEEMPG) is a new networking group set up to help those in the early stages of their museum, art gallery and heritage career.

Hannah Mather, who graduated from Newcastle University in 2016 with an MA in Museum Studies, launched the group in April and here she tells us all about NEEMPG, its aims and hopes for the future.

What is NEEMPG and why did you set it up?

It’s a networking group aimed not just at early stage professionals. We’re providing a fun and enthusiastic environment for members by welcoming new ideas and allowing them to comfortably ask questions, give honest advice and receive support. By building relationships with other professionals we can learn from one another, more established professionals can share their experience while those just starting out bring fresh ideas to the sector.

The group has very diverse members, ranging from dedicated volunteers to students all of which have a common interest in museums, history and heritage.

We’re about encouraging professional development but also representing and unifying the diverse roles within the sector. The Group is also keen to reach out to the numerous volunteers in this sector, who may be helping at museums and want to extend their networks and build their knowledge. We are celebrating the huge contribution that volunteers make to the museums sector and the benefits of being involved.

Sharing advice and good practice is essential for early career professionals, and the forum allows us to do just that. It’s great to be able to engage with people in this way, helping to open doors and to help each other.

How does NEEMPG work?

It’s very social media based at the moment, through Facebook and Twitter. One of the group’s key aims is to encourage participation in professional development opportunities, so we’ve been using the platforms to post or retweet about placements, jobs, exhibitions and the like, particularly those in the North East.

As well as the social media profile, we will be organising events too, meet-ups and socials, going to exhibitions as a group – so there is the real chance to meet and build networks.

How have things gone so far?

It’s been very popular. The interesting has been amazing, we have exceeded 100 members on both Facebook and Twitter in just a few weeks which is very encouraging. Members are inter-acting with each other, sharing opportunities and good practice. It’s great to be able to engage with people in this way, particularly opening doors and sharing knowledge.
Are there similar groups around the country?

Yes, NEEMPG is part of a growing network of EMP groups in the UK. There are currently two other EMP groups which we are working closely with, one in the West Midlands and another in London. I see this group which is based in the North East as an opportunity to celebrate what is being achieved in this region and not only do we wish to help professionals here but also to engage and build relationships with other groups and professionals around the country.

 What’s next for NEEMPG?

As for the future, we want the group to be very much about unity. Currently, we are North-East based, but we will be build our engagement and connections with the existing groups around the country. That will allow us to grow and to organise bigger events and meet up. It would be great to be part of a nation-wide network of early professionals working and volunteering in the museums sector. We are also currently working on exciting outreach which will allow us to connect with other areas both nationally and eventually internationally.

To find out more about NEEMPG join the Facebook group at  and Like the Facebook page

You can also follow the group on Twitter @NEEMPG


In conversation with: Oliver Cook


Oliver Cook has recently graduated from Newcastle University after studying an MA in Public Relations. In this interview, Oliver tells us all about his studies and how he is now looking forward to a successful career in PR.

Tell us a bit about yourself Oliver?

My name is Oliver, I’m 24 from Darlington. I’m currently doing a part-time internship at Northstar Ventures as a PR and Marketing Assistant. I also work part-time as a Barista at Starbucks UK.

What was your undergraduate degree?

I studied History and Philosophy at the University of Sheffield. A great city and would highly advise people to visit it, especially if they know people who live there.

Why did you choose to do a Masters? 

I enjoyed my time at Sheffield and would love to do it all again, however, I was rather disappointed to graduate with a 2:2, especially because nearly everyone I knew got a 2:1.

After Graduating, I had no idea what I wanted to do. After three months’ voluntary work in Sri Lanka with Project Sri Lanka, I immediately started working to save some money and decide what I wanted to do. I ended up at Starbucks and decided to take a year out to save for a trip around the U.S.

My American trip was one of the best things I have ever done, however after I had done it, I realised I needed to think about my career. Having a 2:2 degree is no terrible thing, and many go onto great success with one. However, I personally felt a good Masters in addition to my degree would catch the eye of an employer. However, the next step was to save up money to pay for a Masters and to actually decide what to study!

Why Public Relations?

I loved History and Philosophy, however I didn’t think doing a Masters in either subject would benefit me. I wanted to do something that would help me develop new skills and learn something new, rather than learning a period of history that I had already done in more detail.

I looked into Journalism; I love football and follow it regularly on many different media platforms, so debated whether to become a football reporter or writer. However, journalism is incredibly competitive now, with not a lot of opportunities available, so I looked elsewhere.


I then came across PR. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew that it was about the importance of reputation and how an organisation or person is perceived. Personally, I’m always aware of how I’m perceived by others, and hate being in people’s ‘bad books’. Additionally, working for a global brand like Starbucks, I was used to week in week out having to provide excellent customer service as to not negatively effect my store or the company’s reputation. Along with the writing and analytical skills I had gained from by degree, I felt PR looked a promising route to take.

Why did you choose to study at Newcastle study?

Firstly, through word of mouth. I had heard there was a good PR course there. I did some research, looked at the course myself and it looked very interesting. Not only was it PR that I would be studying, but also Media, which also looked interesting and appealing. All in all, I got the impression that I would learn a lot from the course, both knowledge and skills.

Another key factor for choosing Newcastle was location. I live and work in Darlington and couldn’t afford to pay for a Masters AND move away from home. Darlington is only a half an hour train commute to Newcastle, so I didn’t have to travel far to get to uni… It just meant I couldn’t roll out of bed ten minutes before a lecture!

What did you enjoy most about studying for the Masters?

I would be lying if I said I had not been anxious before starting it. Part of me was worried about discovering PR wasn’t what I wanted to do, or that I wouldn’t like the course. Especially as I was paying for it all out of my own (and family’s) pocket. However, thankfully this was not the case; I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I learned so much and I genuinely felt enlightened by the end of it. I perceived what I saw in the media completely differently, and learned just how important reputation was to an organisation.

I enjoyed learning about the theory of PR; the history of it and the key components of it. I enjoyed the media studies module learning how to analyse media; there was so much I was unaware of. I also had the option to take a degree module in advertising and consumption which was another highlight; I didn’t appreciate the amount of thought that goes in to making adverts.


The practical element was good too; I felt I was genuinely developing new skills by learning how to write a press release, how to plan a PR campaign, or how to react to a PR crisis. A special shout out also must go out to Laurel and Jonathan who taught the course. Laurel doesn’t talk at you in a lecture, she continually asks you questions, often regarding hypothetical situations to check our understanding of what we were learning and apply it. Jonathan was great to have as a seminar tutor too for the same reasons; always trying to encourage discussion and ensure we were understanding theory to be able to apply it to hypothetical situations.

Regarding doing a Masters itself, I found the seminars intellectually stimulating, they never felt like a waste of time. If anything, I wish they had been longer than they were! I enjoyed taking part in discussion and debate with lecturers who knew what they were talking about and could explain things clearly in an engaging way.

What did you find most challenging?

When writing essays, it was always a pain trying to ensure a good essay was under the word count. It meant ensuring that I was concise and selective with what I was writing. However, this was an important thing to practice as it is important to make sure what you write is concise when writing press releases, and especially tweets.

How did you manage the balance between work and studying?

I worked part-time at Starbucks throughout my whole year of study at Newcastle. I went down from 30 hours to 16. This meant balancing three days of work a week with travelling to Newcastle for lectures and seminars, as well as reading, researching and writing essays.

It meant often having to do a morning shift before an afternoon at Uni, or sometimes rushing from Uni to get back to work to do an afternoon shift. I often also had to work nearly every weekend, so days off to do academic work or socialise were a rarity.

This was probably the hardest part of my Masters, especially when doing my dissertation as ideally those extra days off would have made researching and writing less stressful. However I needed income and I wanted to continue my relationship with Starbucks, in case I had an opportunity to apply for a PR role with them. It also oddly provided me a distraction from University as sometimes you could think too much about academic work.

Practically, doing the course helped me apply PR and marketing skill running my store’s social media accounts.

What advice would you give to our current Masters students?

Plan your time well before an assignment. I felt I was quite good at this. I always ensured I had a week to do one, including research, looking for and choosing appropriate quotes, and writing it.

Regarding the actual dissertation, I would advise knowing what you want to be your topic for it, as the research is the most time consuming. However, I appreciate that new topics are constantly appearing out of nowhere. When I started choosing a topic, Brexit had just happened, and I was tempted to change my mind and choose that as my topic. However, try your best to have an idea, and then try to contact potential interviews as soon as possible.

I would also ensure you keep up to date with current affairs. Laurel and Jonathan would give us weekly pop quiz tests to check how are we all were of that week’s news events. I always knew most of the answers. My advice to easily keep up to date would be to follow news sources such as The Guardian, BBC News, Buzzfeed etc. on Facebook. You’re a lot more likely to see an article when scrolling through social media in your spare time as I’m aware it can be a bit overwhelming reading through a whole newspaper or news website. Additionally, the articles on social media will often be news stories being talked about the most, with the ability to see people’s comments; this is incredibly useful when analysing public opinion and how something or someone is perceived.

How did you land your position with Northstar Ventures?

After an intense summer completing and handing in my dissertation, I took a month to just relax and work part-time at Starbucks whilst going on a few trips away to socialise a bit. Some people job searched straight away, but for me personally I needed the break before looking for jobs.

Northstar Ventures came about after seeing a paid internship on the Newcastle University Careers Service site. Northstar is a venture capital firm which invests in innovative, high growth businesses and social enterprises across the North East. It provides entrepreneurs with the support they need to fulfil their ambitions and to achieve social impact through Northstar’s investments.

I knew of the company as Laura Richards worked there, who was a previous star student of the Media & PR course that I had just done, and had done a few informative talks for the PR students. The role was to be a PR and Marketing assistant working with her at the company. It was a fantastic opportunity to work and learn from an up and coming PR practitioner at a firm like Northstar (Laura has recently been awarded Outstanding Young Communicator at this year’s CIPR North East PRide Awards!).

I’m incredibly grateful that I impressed in the interview and have been given this opportunity to do a 10 week part-time paid internship at Northstar. I have already learned so much from Laura, and Northstar, and have got an idea of what working in PR and marketing in the real world feels like. It has been such a great experience.

What does your day involve?

Typically, my day involves first by checking emails, checking news for any coverage of Northstar or their portfolio companies. I am responsible for social media content and sometimes share relevant news, informing followers of local events, especially if events Northstar are involved in or linked with. If I do find coverage of Northstar or our portfolio companies, I will make sure it is tweeted about.

Other things I do is write press release or blog drafts drafts, which then may be tweaked when needed. However, Laura is very good at giving me useful feedback on what I write and I always take it on board. I already feel like I am developing my skills and improving in my role. I am then also tasked with sending press releases out, updating contacts and also to update the website when needed.

What aspects of your MA have proved most useful in your role?

The clearest example of using skills learned from my MA would be learning how to write press releases. In addition, it is not necessarily direct skills that I am applying to my role, but understanding why I’m doing what I’m doing and the importance it has.

How do you see your career progressing?

Now I officially have a Masters to put on my CV, in addition to great experience gained at Northstar Ventures, I feel this will be highly advantageous when applying for jobs. I love the idea or being in PR, marketing and advertising. I am trying to look into working at head office at Starbucks in a PR/marketing role. Due to the skills and knowledge I have gained and my experience working as a Barista, working face to face daily with their stakeholders, I feel I would have a lot to offer. However, I am perfectly willing to look elsewhere, whether that is in the North East, London, or even abroad (New York would be amazing, wouldn’t it?).

What is the best advice you can give for anyone considering a Masters degree?

Make sure it is something you are interested in. In my situation, I chose it to develop skills in a career I was interested in. Has it been worth it? Well right now I can only say that I have learned a lot. I’ll let you know in five years to see where it has taken me and confirm why someone should do a Masters.

 If anyone would like advice regarding their masters or PR, or to follow how my career after university goes, feel free to follow or/and contact me on Twitter (@OGMCookie) or email

To find out more about Northstar Ventures and what they do visit their website and Twitter profile @NorthstarVent.



In conversation with: Emma Coffield

Understanding the construction of artistic identity and how some people are recognised as artists and some objects/ideas and performances are recognised as art, while others are not, has led Emma to her current work exploring the spatial politics of art as well as young people’s engagement with contemporary art both in and out of the gallery space. In August 2016, Emma was appointed Early Career Academic Fellow in Media, Culture and Heritage.ecoffieldqa

Why did you choose to go into museum studies?

I didn’t! I originally trained in Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art, then as an English Language teacher, and only after that started volunteering in museums and galleries. It seemed like the perfect job, so I did my MA here in Newcastle in Art Museum and Gallery Education and then worked as an intern in Glasgow for the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (GI), the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts), and worked in the Theatre Royal at night. While I was doing that I put in the PhD application – I’d enjoyed my MA so much I wanted to come back – but I never really felt like I was choosing one particular field of study. Museum studies is really interdisciplinary, and in my work I tend to lean on everything from art history to cultural sociology to geography, as well as museum studies of course.

What are your plans for your fellowship?

One of the best things about the fellowship is that I have time to dedicate to a new research project. It’s called ‘Geographies of Art: The Spatial Politics of Artistic Practice’ and it explores something that became clear during my PhD research: art isn’t either global or local – or somehow placeless. Instead, artists are making all kinds of complex decisions based on nuanced understandings and experiences that relate to place in varying ways– and I’m interested in that lived experience and its implications for practitioners. The key things for me at the moment are sorting out a schedule, finding opportunities to work with artists both in the UK and internationally, and writing! I’d really like to write a book…

We’ve love to hear what you’ve been up to over summer. What exhibitions have you seen that have sparked your interest?

Oh no, that’s such a difficult question! Helen McCrorie’s The Clock in Commune as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival is one of the best things I’ve ever seen, I finally got to the new Tate Modern and the Louise Bourgeois Artist Rooms exhibition there, and Jennifer West’s Flashlight Filmstrip Projections at Tramway (which is in the dark – visitors are given a torch) was a new one for me, but it was great to see people getting so involved in the materiality of the work. I’ve also been to a lot of really good (and free) events and film screenings at the CCA in Glasgow as part of their series looking at art and society, but the highlight is going to have to be the Hermitage in St Petersburg – I’ve wanted to see the golden peacock for such a long time!

Have you had a busy year with conferences? What’s been your personal highlight?

I went to two really great conferences recently. The first, Networks in a Global World, brought together qualitative and quantitative researchers interested in network analysis, and it had a specific set of panels that looked at networks in relation to art – so a perfect opportunity for me to find out about ongoing work around the world! There was also a fantastic keynote from Ronald Breiger, and I completely changed my mind about the value and application of quantitative data. We need more quantitative researchers in the social sciences! The second was at Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, and was called Cultural Production: Diversity, Equality and Exclusion. There is a real urgency to this work and it can make for depressing reading at times, so it was great to meet so many people committed to change.

What books would we find on your desk at the moment?

My desk is covered with books at the moment (see picture) as I’m running a module later in the year that looks as art curation, and there are so many books to sort through to see if they might be good for the reading list! And then there are the books for my own research, and two new publications about artist-run initiatives… But these are all in my ‘to do’ pile (the ones I’ve read are either on the shelves or back in the library) so I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about them – yet!

As a teacher, what aspects do you most enjoy?

I tend to teach on the MA courses offered by MCH and a lot of our students are already in work or have extensive experience. We also attract students from all over the world, so when you are involved in a lecture or seminar where everyone starts sharing their expertise, that’s a fantastic feeling. I’m also really lucky in that I work on the exhibition module, where our students design and install a public exhibition. It can be quite an emotional process – there are so many decisions and practicalities to consider – but watching the work go up and everything come together is always so exciting. But I think my absolute favourite aspect is hearing what happens next. Our students have gone on to do some really amazing things, and that’s what it is all about in the end!

Thank you Emma.

More information on Emma Coffield’s current research can be found on her staff profile. Emma also co-convenes the Cultural Significance of Place group with Prof. Chris Whitehead and tweets @EmmaCoffield.