My relationship with The Australian National University (ANU) is long and intergenerational.
I exist because my grandfather, Douglas Pike, came to ANU in the 60s. He was the founding editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, which is still based at the University, and when he came to Canberra, he brought his son (my father). Years later, my father was studying Australian history and doing his Master's in Australian film at ANU when he met my mother. She had come to do her PhD in Chinese History, which she finished in the mid-70s.
The University is not just the reason for my existence, it has been a constant throughout my life. I grew up here in Canberra. I went to the University Childcare Centre, which is still open today. I started music lessons at the ANU School of Music, then known as the Canberra School of Music, when I was just four years old.
I studied for my own undergraduate degree in the Classics here. Then, there was a special course where I had the opportunity to handle some of the objects in the Classics Museum. Prof Elizabeth Minchin, my predecessor as curator of the museum and one of my PhD supervisors, handed me a little red-slip Roman plate. When Elizabeth asked me to turn the plate over, I saw some little splotches on the bottom. She told me to put my fingertips on those splotches, and said "those are the fingerprints of the person who dipped it into the red slip." I was amazed. In a way, I was making a form of physical, personal contact with someone that lived 2000 years ago. It was incredibly special. Later, when I found out that a curatorship position was available at the Classics Museum, and that I could give that experience to other students, I leapt at the chance. Since then, my career has always intertwined with ANU in one way or another.
I met my husband, Martin, at University House. One of my favourite memories at ANU is of meeting him. I was an Early Career Fellow at University House, and they were launching a new outdoor sculpture purchased for their collection. My husband, who is an alumnus, was at the event to support the sculptor. Martin ended up being dragged into the dinner following the launch in the Great Hall - a grand room, with long tables, where the community of academics and students from all disciplines can come together. It was in that context that I met my husband. He asked if I could pass the wine, we starting chatting, and the rest is history.
Now, I work at the ANU Classics Museum. There's never been a time where I have not been working in some capacity for the University, and always my work has been very strongly related to the community, whether in the music program or now through the Classics Museum. In fact, my current role is funded philanthropically. That level of community engagement is not always possible in bigger cities. There's something very, very special about having a highly educated community, who are passionate about culture, about the arts, and about history, in a small place like Canberra; it means you can build a lovely, intimate and passionate community around the work that you do. And that's something special about ANU.
There are so many more connections I haven't been able to mention in this story. Of my grandmother hosting dinners for academic staff; my mother and her love of ANU's libraries; my sister who studied her master's degree here; and the many long-lasting friendships I have built at ANU.
I have never felt separated from the University - since I was a child it's just always been a part of my life. It's a place that I have always loved and continue to love today.