Heather Elliott is from Ontario, and is the eldest of five sisters. After completing her BA with Honours at Trent University, she received a post-graduate diploma in Museum Management and Curatorship at Fleming College. From there, she moved to St. John’s, and has been living here for the last six years. She love all things nautical, and can rattle off plenty of maritime-themed facts if you let her. She travels, reads, dances, writes, and does way, way too many things.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
I have been living in St. John’s for the last six years and have been thinking of going back to school to complete a graduate degree most of that time. After getting some workforce experience (The Rooms, Museum Planning Partners), I decided to finally take the plunge and apply.
What drew you to explore anthropology originally?
I took an introductory class to the social sciences in grade 11, and was drawn in by the work of Jane Goodall with the chimps at Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. The more I studied the different fields of anthropology, the more I felt drawn to cultural anthropology. Learning why people do what they do, and how they do it, fascinated me, so when I went to Trent University for my undergraduate degree, I didn’t have to think twice about my major.
Can you tell us a bit about your current projects?
I’ve always been interested in maritime history, and publish my own blog called Original Shipster where I research and write about ships and shipwrecks of Canada. Later this month, I’ll be giving a talk at The Rooms on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Florizel. I’ve also interviewed people who take to the sea to make their living, which sparked my interest in women in the maritime field. From that, I decided to use my thesis as the opportunity to study the experiences of women training to enter the marine trades, and how systemic sexism and gender bias carries from the classroom into the workplace.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor Robin Whitaker bring to their role as your advisor and mentor?
Robin is an excellent supervisor. She’s great at keeping me grounded when I start to panic about not being as far along as I feel I should be, but she’s quick to keep me on track with deadlines for grants and scholarships. Just by sitting down in her office for a quick meeting, she can successfully help me kill any of the nerves that could otherwise derail my life as a graduate student. I’m really fortunate to have her as a supervisor
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
I’m involved in quite a few organizations in my off-campus life. I sit on the Board of Directors for the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador, and have been involved in exhibit development and conference planning with them as well. For the last four years I’ve been part of the Youth Advisory Group of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, working to encourage youth involvement in the heritage sector. I also work part-time at The Rooms with both the Visitor Services division and on contract with the Provincial Museum – most recently, I’ve worked with the museum on the development and updating of the First World War exhibit that opened in July 2016. Outside of the culture and heritage sectors, I sit on the board of the Island Belles Burlesque troupe, and I dance with Army of Sass St. John’s. Finally, I am participating in the Vagina Monologues for the first time this year, which I’m very excited for. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and after volunteering with them last year, I decided to audition. I’m always looking for more fun and interesting things to do!
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
I love being able to study the topics I find compelling. Memorial’s anthropology department is great because the faculty have such diverse backgrounds and everyone is very supportive. I am thriving in this environment, and enjoy being able to throw myself into my work with the resources and research opportunities to back it up.
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
I hope to venture back into the museum field full-time, perhaps as a curator, or I may continue on to a PhD. I’ll have to see what the future holds!