student volunteer Emma Hardiman in DHC.

September 27, 2016, by Matt Davies

From Digital Humanities volunteer to Digital Curator: how volunteering helped me to discover my true vocation by DHC volunteer alumna Emma Hardiman.

History of Art graduate Emma Hardiman volunteered in DHC 2011-2013, she is currently digital curator at Athena.

student volunteer Emma Hardiman in DHC.

Emma Hardiman enjoying her time volunteering in DHC.

It would be very easy to tell you that I always wanted to be a curator and that I knew exactly how to get there, but that simply would not be true. All I knew as a fresher at the University of Nottingham was that I loved art, which is why I had decided to study History of Art. I also knew that I wanted to immerse myself in University life, learn some new skills and really get the most out of it. However I had no idea how to go about structuring these passions into a career path.

I heard about the Digital Humanities Centre during my first year. I knew that this enigmatic place lurked somewhere in the humanities building and offered students the opportunity to volunteer but I didn’t know much more about it. It sounded like I would learn some tech and also get to meet people from other courses. I was intrigued so went along. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made at Uni, the skills and experience that I gained volunteering were more valuable than I could have anticipated and I would implore any student in the University’s faculty of Arts to go visit the DHC and see how they can get involved.


I immediately made a great network of friends from different years and courses which exposed me to new ideas and ways of working which in turn helped me with my own research, but also to feel like a part of the whole faculty of Arts. Working with people from other subjects helps you to learn different approaches and also helps you to maximise your potential as a team player. As digital curator at Athena my job can be extremely diverse so knowing when to pass on a job and who to is crucial.

The DHC volunteers work in teams and I was originally part of the Management team where I developed an in depth understanding of the resources and equipment available in the centre enabling me in turn to help students with a wide variety of research projects and queries. This also allowed me to get involved with some cutting edge research projects from across campus and the possibilities for my own research were expanded dramatically as a result.

Indeed volunteering in DHC helped shape my research and was where I realised which direction I wanted to head in after university. I already knew that I enjoyed research but in DHC I discovered I have a flair for practical research. This I utilized in both my undergrad and masters dissertation projects, creating digital reconstructions and conducting experimental archaeology research and publishing it online, all of which helped set me up with the skills and experience I needed to pursue a career in curation.

Volunteering in the DHC also helped me to develop my existing design skills and to learn new ones. It gave me access to a variety of design software, allowing me to explore and self-teach. I consolidated these skills by teaching and supporting students and staff using the centre, even running an InDesign workshop which was filmed and made available via the DHC YouTube channel.

I also ran a prototype DHC blog and it was here that I discovered my passion for archives and the thrill of finding those hidden gems of information and unasked questions which I could share with followers of the site. I also learnt lots about how to use social media and how to capture the right audiences which is such an integral part of my job today.

Networking Events.

Representing DHC at University events like the open days and the official opening of the new Humanities building by Matthew Bannister in 2012, helped me to develop networking skills and also to gain confidence. Outreach events like the annual university Mayfest also gave me the opportunity to get creative, curating and managing activities for the wider Nottingham community. This is where I discovered my passion for making art accessible, engaging and interactive for all. It really triggered a new way of thinking for me, which I still use in my daily work.

Volunteering at the Digital Humanities Centre dramatically enriched my degree and allowed me to grow, learn and develop the skills I now use as Digital Curator. Gaining work experience as well as networking, archival and digitisation skills enhanced my CV greatly and helped me to stand out at job interviews. If I had one piece of advice for new students it would be never let an opportunity pass you by, you never know where it might take you!

If you’re an Arts students at the University of Nottingham and interested in volunteering at DHC contact

Posted in DTH Volunteer AlumniDTH VolunteersGuest blogger