UCL News


Spotlight on Professor May Cassar

19 April 2012

This week the spotlight is on Professor May Cassar, Centre for Sustainable Heritage, Bartlett School of Graduate Studies.

Professor May Cassar

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the Director of the Centre for Sustainable Heritage (CSH) at UCL, which has just celebrated its 11-year anniversary.

CSH sits within the UCL Bartlett School of Graduate Studies and we work on an interdisciplinary range of subjects from the more tangible (collections, buildings, sites), to the intangible (stories and memories associated with cultural heritage) as well as digital (imaging and virtual) heritage. Through research and teaching, we aim to help safeguard what we have inherited for future generations.

CSH offers two Masters programmes, an MSc in Sustainable Heritage and an MRes in Heritage Science, and our interdisciplinary research always involves external heritage institutions as partners such as the British Museum.

I contribute to teaching on both Master's programmes, helping to produce the new generation of heritage leaders.

My research focuses on the impact of climate change on cultural heritage. Specifically, I am interested in how research evidence is taken up (or not) by policy makers.

I am keen to keep heritage on the public and political agenda and support events such as World Heritage Day, which serve to raise the public's awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it.

Students from the CSH participated in World Heritage Day by running an international heritage blog. If anyone is interested, they should visit the Bartlett blog.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I came to UCL 11 years ago in order to set up the Centre for Sustainable Heritage at the Bartlett, with the support of the Institute of Archaeology and the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies.

My role prior to coming to UCL was as the Environmental Adviser to the Museums & Galleries Commission, the predecessor of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

My role was to set out guidance and to advise the 2,000 or so museums and galleries in the UK (excluding the National Museums and Galleries) on the measures that they should take to protect their collection from environmental damage.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

The working achievement I am most proud of is the role I played as Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee Inquiry on Science and Heritage between 2005 and 2006.

The initiative I am most proud of, apart from leading the Centre for Sustainable Heritage over the past decade, is my current role as the Director of the AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage Research Programme.

My involvement with the Inquiry and the opportunity to shape the Science and Heritage Programme has enabled me to engage with academic and non-academic institutions across the UK in the effort to ensure that the UK's global leadership role in heritage science is sustained.

What is your life like outside UCL?

Almost two years ago, I decided that my work-life balance needed adjusting. I took up fitness training, progressed to include running in my fitness regime, lost a third of my weight and I haven't looked back. I have run a half-marathon and 10k for Age UK, my chosen charity, and this March, I ran my personal best for Sports Relief.

My life outside UCL focuses on family, friends, museums, theatre, good food and fitness training. When I can, I combine my newest interest (training) and my oldest (heritage) by running in historic parks, gardens and archaeological sites (where permitted!). Places where I have run include the Holkham Estate in Norfolk, the Saxon Garden in Warsaw and the Circus Maximus in Rome.