My Layers of London experience by Isavella Voulgareli

Helping with Layers of London proved to be such an exciting experience. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life sitting behind a desk being told what to do. Fortunately, I managed to develop strong academic background knowledge but – except a very few short-term volunteering experiences – it was the first time I went out into the big wide world getting involved in a fascinating project such as Layers of London.

Layers of London made me understand how important is to improve your interpersonal skills. Those kinds of skills help you build a strong foundation for communications. I really appreciate the depth and power of literary heritage. However, you have to start working in a field in order to understand what real-world means as well as the challenges that come along with it.

When I first applied to Layers of London I didn’t know what to expect. I’m currently doing my master’s at UCL and I always used to stay in my comfort zone by studying or doing research without considering to do any placements. Yet, placements are a wonderful opportunity for students to gain knowledge and experience and at the same time learn the most valuable skills for their career.

I applied to the project since in terms of my master’s I had the option to do a 20-day voluntary placement in a museum or other cultural heritage organization. My course coordinator let me know about the project and thus I found the placement I was looking for with ease. Regarding the project, I work with Greek or Cypriot community groups to get them to record their memories of first coming to London through oral histories and I curate these online. More specifically, I conduct interviews with members of the Greek/Greek-Cypriot community in London about their experience of living and working in London today. In addition, I'm trying to create a collection to house all the pins on the website based on this theme, using layered historic maps.

Until now I have managed to arrange and conduct two interviews. I have to admit that approaching potential participants isn’t a very easy task. There are many issues involved - engagement, rapport, connection, trust, and belief need to be built between the interviewer and the participants – and thus a placement like this one made me able to perceive the multiple challenges you may face when you start working since you interact with human beings. At the same time, this very beneficial experience enabled me to gain an insight into what a career in the cultural heritage field would be like since I understood in practice that culture and heritage mean histories, memories and thus human behaviours. Therefore, whoever is interested in such a field should look for placements that will help them become adept at interacting with others.