Before I started, my expectations of the scholarship were that I might be a bit out of my depth. I would be looking at research and topics that I’d not covered before, and I was a bit worried about support and how I would cope with 12 solid weeks of research on my own.

Compared to where I am now I feel a lot more comfortable about my place in the scheme. I feel like I’ve really developed since I joined, I’m much more confident with historical items and producing research, and it’s encouraged me to have a lot more opportunities and seek out things to do to develop myself further beyond the scholarship.

My plans after graduation have alway been to undertake a masters and a PhD, but I was never quite sure how I would achieve getting funding for a PhD. But since undertaking the laidlaw scholarship I’ve got a clearer idea of how to do this, and its allowed me to adapt my plan. I wouldn’t have had the connections or the knowledge to do this without the Laidlaw Scholarship. Without it, I don’t think that I would stand a good chance of securing PhD funding or have the knowledge, connections or confidence to go for that opportunity.

What is Olivia up to now?

Currently studying International History and Politics at the University of Leeds

Olivia Powell
Leadership

The leadership aspects of the scholarship have been hugely beneficial to me. They’ve greatly developed my communication and organisational skills, which I’ve been able to employ not only in my project, where I’ve been working with a variety of experts and non-experts to produce the best results, but also it’s helped me within my degree programme. I’m better at communicating with other students to produce presentations, reports and other things that are necessary for our academic progression. The leadership aspects have also helped me become more confident, so I’ve put myself forward for more opportunities that I might not have done before, and I feel confident that when I graduate I’ll know how to engage in a work setting and what kind of real life skills are expected of me.

Research

My research project focussed on the antiques dealer Phillips of Hitchin, who were based in the UK. I looked at their sales to museums and galleries, to see if I could pull any significant information on antiques that were sold. The research project itself is part of a larger project that my supervisor is working on studying the antiques and arts market in Britain as a whole. Phillips of Hitchin had donated all of their archives to special collections at Leeds University, so it worked well having a scholar to work on their archives to contribute to the overall understanding. I personally wanted to apply for it and undertake the research because my degree focuses on 20th century political history and doesn’t give me the chance to explore social and cultural heritage, so it was a great opportunity for me to develop in an area of history that I don’t get the chance to study but that I’m really interested in.

Networks

The scholarship has helped me create a professional network by giving me connections in the historical and museums sector that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve been able to use my connections in special collections to gain a long term volunteering position there continuing on with the conservation of historical documents. My project supervisor also has connections within the museum industry which is great for helping me find full interning experience in that. My social network has greatly developed too because its allowed me to make friends with people outside of the school of History. I’ve met geologists, chemists, engineers, english students and it’s just great to have that wider range of people to know. It’s an incredibly supportive network so you know that when everyone else has gone home for the summer, there are still people in Leeds that you can meet up with and have a chat to.