Director/digital archaeologist — Bethany Watrous
Bethany spotted a gap in the archaeology sector and decided to fill it by starting her own business in digital heritage
What degree did you study?
I did a Masters in archaeology of buildings with a focus on digital heritage at the University of York, graduating in 2019.
How did you get your job?
As I was finishing my Masters, I started Experience Heritage as a sole trader. In 2020 we went limited. I began the company because as I worked on my dissertation, I saw that there was a gap in the market for heritage professionals who could also create virtual assets to help audiences better understand and engage with heritage and I wanted to fill that gap.
How relevant is your degree?
My degree in buildings archaeology, along with my focus on digital heritage, has been very relevant and was the jumping off point for creating the business. I learned 3D modelling as part of my degree, particularly for understanding and presenting heritage, and now that is the basis for what the company does.
What's a typical working day like?
As the owner and sole employee of the business, I wear about seven hats, but any given day might include:
- fielding enquiries from potential clients including city councils, trusts, etc, who are looking to have a heritage trail or augmented reality app built
- preparing for a talk to educate different audiences about digital media for heritage
- coordinating with my volunteers and interns who help with content creation, research and marketing
- creating media samples like video or photogrammetry models for client projects or social media
- working in software like 3DS Max, Unity, Photoshop, Premiere, Metashape
- carrying out research and creating 3D models for projects
- working on the development of our own product - an app platform.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the creative and intellectual parts of it. I love heritage, researching and building models and seeing that history come to life. I also love that I'm learning new things everyday and developing new skills.
But most of all, my favourite thing is that I'm creating exactly the kinds of things that I want to interact with when I go to a heritage site. Helping people experience heritage has been the passion driving me and the whole reason I got into this.
What are the challenges?
Most of the challenges lie in running a small, bootstrapping start-up. I'm learning as I go and currently without the ability to hire someone to do marketing or bookkeeping, for instance. I have to learn how to do quite a few things in order to keep the business running and thriving.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
I hope in five years to have hired around five to eight staff and to have successfully launched a few of our own products which make using and building digital assets for the heritage industry easier.
I also hope that we will have expanded into other international markets, and to have established Experience Heritage as the go-to business for interactive media in heritage.
What advice can you give to others?
- If you have a niche interest, use that to stand out in your cohort or industry. When I was on my Masters, I made it well known that I was interested in creating digital assets and from that I was recommended by staff for different opportunities that have helped get me to where I am now. Even though digital heritage/archaeology is already niche, having a specific focus within that will be helpful in making you stand out as a candidate or company.
- Utilise opportunities and connections. I've grown and learned so much because I say yes to many opportunities and made connections within my university and my community.
- There will always be more to learn. If you work with technology, things will continuously shift and change and there will always be new things to pick up. Don't let that stop you. Embrace learning as you go and remember that when you work in a niche field, you already know more than most about your topic.
- Get started on your portfolio. This is highly impactful for potential employers or clients. Find the specific problem that you want to solve to help you stay focused. Research the relevant software for what you are specifically looking to do and get started learning it. There are so many free resources out there nowadays
Find out more
- See what else you can do with a degree in archaeology.
- Read all about self-employment.