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Interview with PhD award winner Anne-Marie Eze

Justine Reilly

Anne-Marie Eze - Director of Scholarly and Public Programmes at Harvard University.

In 2006, Anne-Marie Eze, currently Houghton Library’s first Director of Scholarly and Public Programmes at Harvard University, was funded by AHRC to undertake a Collaborative Doctoral Award at the Courtauld Institute of Art and the British Library. At the time, she was at the V&A and without the fully-funded award, she says, she would not have been able to leave a full-time job to pursue the doctoral study which has been crucial to her career and helped her to stand out in her field of Art History.

In her current role, she leads the library’s scholarly communications and public programming initiatives, including exhibitions, publications, fellowships, lectures, symposia and tours. She is also Houghton’s chief communication officer, overseeing the library’s social media platforms and working with Harvard Library communications to promote increased engagement with and awareness of Houghton’s acclaimed collection of rare books, manuscripts and archival holdings.

In 2001, Anne-Marie completed an undergraduate degree in Classics at UCL and decided she wanted to be a rare books librarian. She continued at UCL, winning a scholarship to undertake a Masters in library and information studies, specialising in rare books.

Her first job was as a curator at the V&A, where she took part in the Assistant Curators Development Programme. She describes this as a ‘great experience exposing me to different collections and departments throughout the museum’. 

When the opportunity arose to do an Art History PhD, allowing her to combine doctoral training with her interest in art and books, she jumped at the chance. She said it was a fantastic opportunity to work in both the Courtauld and the British Library and allowed her to demonstrate her continued engagement with the sector throughout her study. 

She says that ‘the AHRC studentship added the chance to work at the British Library. In my field it is the pinnacle.  It represented a way into the British Library, and to be able to work with a knowledgeable, generous team of colleagues where I learnt such a lot. I had a fantastic supervisor who I am still in contact with, and who became a mentor figure for me.’

When asked about the skills developed during her PhD, Anne-Marie commented that a PhD is essentially a project, so project management skills were crucial to her doctoral training, ensuring that she completed her PhD in just over three years: ‘You’re largely a sole agent, meaning you have to be disciplined and direct yourself.  You need to produce work that is original, creatively, and freedom is needed for you to be able to explore your ideas.  It’s an unparalleled experience in many ways when it comes to problem solving. Doing a PhD certainly gives you that skill’.

Anne-Marie’s advice to anyone thinking about undertaking a PhD is to consider what you want to get out of it and how will it help you in your career. It is important to think broadly about your career from the beginning and about the wide range of opportunities which might be available.

Anne-Marie concludes by saying that she feels she made the most of her three years’ doctoral study and found the experience ‘liberating’: ‘I made incredible contacts during the time I was working at the British Library and I’m still in contact with many of the people there. Whenever I come back to the UK, I always try to get to the British Library, even if it’s just for a cup of coffee.  It’s good to reconnect. My network exploded during that time, which helped when I moved to the U.S. as well’.

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