HEI(s): University of Glasgow and University of Aberdeen
Host organisation: National Trust for Scotland
Duration of the internship: 6 months part-time
My PhD is titled ‘The Technical Recipe: A Formal Analysis of Nineteenth-century Food Writing’. In it I research culinary recipes from the nineteenth century as a form of literary technology. I consider how recipes are a genre in which writers used culinary implements to situate their writing within certain versions of history, looking at the literary techniques they used to do so.
Why did you decide to undertake an internship?
I thought an internship would be a great way to make sure I got the most out of my PhD experience. I wanted my experience to be as well-rounded as possible, so having the time to engage in another project in a different field was wonderful. I am considering pursuing a career in heritage, so the internship provided me with vital experience that will help if I do go down that path.
How did you plan your own internship?
I knew that I wanted to get some experience in the heritage sector as I have always loved visiting historical properties, and because my research is in culinary history I thought it would lend itself well to an organization like the NTS. I filled in an online enquiry form, explaining who I was and my research, and asking if they knew of any opportunities. This was passed around and it reached the curator for Edinburgh, and it just so happened that they were renovating their property, Gladstone’s Land. They wanted the newly imagined property to centre around commerce and trade, and food is a vital part of that, so I came on board as their resident food historian!
What was your internship and what did you do?
Working with the curators and managers of Gladstone’s Land, I first wrote a report on food in Edinburgh over the three centuries that are represented in the different floors of the house: the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early-twentieth century. This document is used as an interpretive tool for the house and the NTS’s other properties, as I gave historical overviews and suggested ways in which food could be authentically displayed to visitors.
I went onto write a specialist food tour called Tables Through Time, which visitors can book to attend every week at Gladstone’s Land. It is an interactive tour centred on food, which guides visitors around the property through the lives of three women who lived there and the ways in which they incorporated food into their businesses. I wrote the narrative of the tour, came up with samples to provide to visitors, and demonstrated it to the press. In addition to this, I wrote a series of ‘Edinburgh’s Pantry’ articles for the NTS which brings attention to their collections and the history of key food groups in Edinburgh. I also gave a lecture for members of the NTS on Scotland’s Historical Cookbooks.
What aspects of the internship did you find most rewarding?
The opportunity to rethink my research within a heritage environment was hugely rewarding. Food is something that people really connect with, so I loved being able to take my knowledge and transfer it into a live environment that people can experience and learn from. It challenged me to think about how I could communicate knowledge from paper to reality, in an engaging and entertaining way. The internship gave me great insights into the Heritage sector and was an experience in which I could really see my work having a tangible impact in the real world.
Has the internship influenced your future plans at all?
Yes. I always thought I would enjoy working in heritage, and the internship gave me the practical experience necessary to know that I would. This means I am now actively considering pursuing a career in heritage.
It has also helped me shape ideas for future research plans that may come out in a postdoctoral project or other collaborative activity. Through my internship I have formed other exciting opportunities that I am fitting into future career plans.
What are some of the skills you have picked up or improved through the internship?
I’ve always enjoyed writing about food in a non-academic sense, but the internship gave me the time and space to really practice communicating academic research to the public. I was able to learn from my colleagues about how they communicate knowledge throughout their properties, via guides, storytelling and displays, and I adapted that into my own writing for the NTS.
I also got the opportunity to deliver my tour to the press, so that was excellent practice in speaking to the public, rather than at an academic conference. My ability to confidently speak about my research in an engaging, non-specialist way was definitely improved by the internship.
Do you have any tips for researchers looking to do an internship?
Think about what you want to get out of the internship – outputs, experiences, knowledge – and try and adapt how you approach it so that you get those things. Communicate with your colleagues so they know what you want, and vice versa – this really helped me to shape what I got out of it.
Once you’re undertaking the internship, be open to flexibility and let it go in unexpected directions if they turn out to be the most productive. The pandemic really changed how I approached my internship but adapting helped me make the most of things and I still have a productive relationship with the NTS.
Where can people find out more?
The NTS have a wonderful website where you can read about their properties, and featured articles like my Edinburgh’s Pantry series. The website also advertises their events, and through it you can book on tours including the one I wrote for Gladstone’s Land. Gladstone’s Land also have a great twitter account (@GladstonesLand) on which they update what is going on at the property, and I use my twitter (@lindsmiddleton) to keep people up to date on my research projects. I’m currently doing some exciting work around Scottish Food History, Tourism and Heritage, so keep your eyes peeled!
This article was published on 25 May, 2022