New profile on the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals series:
What was your motivation to enter the cultural heritage field? Was it your first option?
I first fell in love with my research field when I assisted at a conference on art and law in my last bachelor year. I didn’t know it was possible to combine my passion for art and culture with my legal education. So, thanks to this eyeopener, I did my master thesis on cultural goods and property law and went on studying an extra year in Paris on cultural heritage law.
I interned at the Flemish and Belgian representation to UNESCO, worked two years in an art and heritage law firm and finalised a PhD on the burden of cultural heritage. All the way through my recent appointment as professor in Nature and Culture Law, cultural heritage has been my first option and I was very lucky it always worked that way.
How was/is your transition from studying to working?
I chose to keep my interest in cultural heritage and found one of the very few law firms who practiced exclusively art and cultural heritage law. Two years later, I was awarded funding for a PhD on the matter, and a postdoc too. Now I am still in academia, so I have the feeling I never really left education, softening the transition.
How are you looking/looked for a job in heritage? And how do you experience/experienced the phase of search and application?
Thanks to my extra master in Paris, I was able to get to know other lawyers working in the field and build up a network, which is still niche, but it helped for getting my job at the law firm and getting funding for research.
What skills and competences do you notice are demanded the most in job offers?
In my field of expertise, the most required skill is critical analysis, developing original ideas, drafting papers, presenting papers and collaborating at an international level. For that, you need a lot of self-discipline, as you are your own driver, which is not always easy, but that freedom is also quite stimulating.
Based on the profiles of job positions, do you notice skills or competences that your education didn’t provide you with?
With the professor position, some management skills are needed (for managing a research project and a team), but that is not something you learn at school or university.
How do you think young people can be attracted to work in heritage? Do you have proposals?
Young people want their careers to be meaningful. I think working in the heritage field is very meaningful. Heritage brings you close to what gives meaning to people.
Heritage, tangible and intangible, is about cultural identity and about preserving a past and present for future generations. It is something that lasts, that is sustainable. You feel useful to give energy in something that is collectively shared.
How do you see the future of the cultural heritage field?
I hope heritage will continue to be valued as vital to people, to better know who they are, where they come from so to decide where to go. We are facing immense challenges with a changing climate, and heritage should be a helpful grip to tackle these. Moreover, the divide between nature and culture is getting bypassed, also thanks to a new approach to heritage, which will further bear fruit, I hope.