Arts Grads: Profiles of Success & Resilience – January

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The Lucky Archivist

Arts Grad: David Luck

Course:  MSc, formerly Archives/Archival Administration, now Information Management & Preservation (Graduated 2010)

Current Job: Senior Archivist, City of London Corporation

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Early Exchanges

At the age of 15, David Luck received careers advice that he tried to ignore.  

“In [England], there was this computer program. You filled in your answers and it would give you possible suggested careers. Every time I did it, it pointed me to the heritage sector and I didn’t follow it.  I looked at it and didn’t think it would be me…I didn’t have a particular vision for my future, besides becoming a First Division footballer, but, for whatever reason, I was sure the heritage sector wasn’t for me. “ 

When David graduated from secondary school, he decided to pursue American Studies at the University of Leicester. 

“It was a chance to learn about a different culture. My course offered a year abroad [in Kansas]. It taught me about who I was and how I supported myself, and it introduced me to a group of people who are still my close friends. It’s one of the great successes of my life.”

Academic Adjacent

After graduating with a First-class degree, David wanted to explore the world of academia. 

“I decided to do a Masters [in American Studies]. It was a step-up in terms of the quality and effort I needed to invest. I knew that, if I wanted to go further [to doctoral studies], I needed to pick something I passionately wanted to focus on and that wasn’t for me.” 

Instead, David decided to follow in his family footsteps and become a teacher. 

“My mom’s a child minder, my aunt’s a head mistress, and I had already worked as a teaching assistant for a year. It seemed natural.” 

Despite his natural aptitude for teaching, David didn’t enjoy his teacher training. 

“To be a teacher, there is no room in your life to do anything other than being a teacher. It requires a kind of total commitment…I spoke to my tutors on my course. I’d had quite a difficult first placement. It’s a funny thing, you get thrown in, you either swim or you sink, and they could tell I was sinking. If you lose the impetus to do it, that’s irreplaceable, you can’t go back…It was the first time I ever failed at anything. I was a fairly smart cookie. I had a Masters. It was very difficult to decide that I needed to stop.”  

Out of teaching, David found himself at another crossroads, David spent a few years exploring career opportunities, before stumbling upon his passion. 

“I guess you could say it was luck. I had this grounding in academia, and I was looking for an academic-adjacent job…There was an Archives Officer position that came up [with the Surrey Police] and, since I had worked in a warehouse, I was given a chance… What excited me when I was initially starting, you could see the potential in the field. It was a time of a lot of change and I could help people find the information they needed, I could answer their questions…” 

Once David discovered his area of his professional expertise, his academic instincts and drive for personal development led him back to university. 

“There are only about 5 places [in the UK] that offer options [to specialize in Archival Administration]. One of my friends from my year abroad lived in Glasgow, so I had already visited and knew I liked the city… At the same time as applying to study [at the University of Glasgow], an Archives job came up in Glasgow.  Sometimes it’s blind luck, but sometimes you’re the right person at the right time.”

For the Record

Today, David is working as a Senior Archivist for the City of London, dealing with materials dating back to 1067. For the unfamiliar, David explains the world of archiving as “preserving records and making applied practical history accessible for people”, a job that requires the spectrum of skills David developed during his education, odd jobs, and even teacher training. 

“I bring the skills from my arts degree, the ability to express yourself and argue a point, as well as my teaching skills and practical abilities, like being able to fix a photocopier… 11 years into my career, there is still a willingness to do a lot that falls outside my job description.” 

As Senior Archivist, David’s job supervises two teams of archivists preserving recordings and managing public access to information. David’s job has evolved with him, extending to media relations, stakeholder relations, and community outreach, such as speaking at history fairs and institutes. And, he continues to play his role supporting the academic community.  

“There’s a warm glow of seeing someone put together their incredibly obscure PhD project using the information I provided in the structure I created for them to use.“

Any Advice? 

If David could speak with his 15-year-old self, what advice would he provide?  

“First off, [younger] me would not have listened to 38-year-old me. What I wanted from my life was a job that could support me and be happy doing. There are a lot of complicated factors. I didn’t want a job that isn’t right in the moral or ethical sense. I thought I might have to compromise, but I haven’t…I look back and think of the careers advice the computer program provided, I wish I had done a bit of volunteering at an archive library…But, then again, all my different experiences helped me with what I do now. Even the things that felt like failure at the time, they were the right choice.”

Post Author: Amy Balloch

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