Rob McCombe | Manchester Museum with the Egyptian collection

As my previous blog discussed, the majority of my work at Manchester Museum has focused on investigating the history of the Egyptian collection. Specifically, I’ve been looking at the nineteenth century history of the mummies and the mummy known as Asru (donated in 1825 by the Garnett brothers) in particular.

Constructing an object biography, would I hoped, allow me to explore ideas, connections and histories that weren’t readily available to viewers in the gallery. This object biographical approach, while valuable and for me, one of the most practical and useful approaches in this situation, is not without its potential problems.  A singular focus upon one object can lead to a narrow view of wider and more complex collections for instance, which in turn has led me to research into the broader historical context of this object. Furthermore, the creation of a successful biography depends upon accessible resources in archives. In this instance I’ve been relatively fortunate, but it has reflected upon the limitations of what’s achievable in a relatively small scale project in terms of both time and scope.

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Research to Profession – Time is going too fast here! – Blog Post by Veronica Pizzarotti

I honestly can’t believe I’m already half way through this internship. I’ve had really exciting days packed with activities and I’ve  also started putting the preparatory work I had done in the first few days in shape to be inputted into the new collection management system.

I feel really grateful for the opportunity I have been given to use a system that is new to everybody and to comment on it. Given the opportunity  I have been given  I will work even harder to complete this pilot project in a satisfactory way.

Narrative writing is really hard. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to rethink years of research to explain in a coherent an cohesive way your point about the peculiarities of a given book,  and then to transform this summary  in a shorter one,  first to produce an overview of the edition I am analysing, then a summary outlining how this edition could be used for students, and finally an account for the general public.  The policy for the Library for material aimed at the general public is 80 words, and this limit is really daunting! At first I thought ‘How can I possibly say something relevant about a 46-books-long poem in 80 words?’ But this in reality is an amazingly good exercise as it forced me to really think to the relevant aspects of my research and how they could cast light on the focus of my research and its possible appeal to a non-academic audience. This exercise has  worked very well so far, as I feel I have also found new applications of my research and I hope the will take shape in the form of collection encounters in the future.

I have spent quite a lot of time familiarising myself with the new collection management system, to try and understand the terminology and its various components, in order  to use them for my own project. Now I feel I am confident in the use terminology to designate the collections and its components and how to populate fields with information relevant for my task. The interactive nature of the system has enabled me to explore its different parts and their interaction with one another (i.e. the links between the catalogue and the narrative writing and how to generate keywords and bibliography records to be attached to the narrative).


I have received positive feedback on my work so far and I am looking forward to work with more editions over the next few days. I hope that my contribution will cast light on the use of a repository of narratives to be used by the library in the future.

Veronica Pizzarotti – PhD  Candidate in Italian Studies

Research to Profession – My First Five Days in the Rylands – Blog Post by Veronica Pizzarotti

Research to Profession – My First Five Days in the Rylands – Blog Post by Veronica Pizzarotti

The title of this post is actually a lie as, since I started my PhD, I’ve spent much more than just five days in the John Rylands Library. Their Special Collections host in fact the core texts I’ve been using for my PhD over the past three and a halfyears. My research focuses on the translation into English of the Italian epic poem Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto and analyses the authorisation of three translations  by looking at the forms and features of the book objects in which each translation was published. One of the reasons I chose Manchester for my PhD was the availability of these texts in their Special Collections Division. I still remember my excitement at the idea of accessing these books in their physical form and after they had been preserved from time and consumption in what soon turned out to be an incredible place.

The Rylands is indeed an incredible place, and through my project I have been using it extensively, but I’ve always had the feeling that, while  I was using their books for my own needs, but that was just the tip of the iceberg and there was much more I would have liked  to explore, and to know how this Library works behind the scenes.  For all these reasons I was delighted to be selected for the Afterlife of Heritage Research Project and I am extremely grateful to Julianne Simpson and the Printed Books Office team for welcoming me.

I am also grateful to every single staff member at the John Rylands Library, as every one of them has added a tile to the mosaic to make me understand the various aspects of this place. These first few days have been like a tour of Wonderland, as I have been guided through every aspect of the organization and had an introduction to how books are just one important part of a jigsaw puzzle, and are complement and enriched by the presence of archives, visual collections and how these collections are used to organise public engagement activities.

In my time here I will be using the primary texts for my PhD to write narratives. These are short descriptions of some of the Furioso editions for the newly adopted Collection Management System. For this purpose I had the opportunity to go and be trained with the other staff members in the use of this new system. This experience has added important information to my knowledge of terminology related to heritage objects and they way to access them. I will be writing narratives for the general public, for academics and more comprehensive ones to try and provide an overview of the book materiality and provenance. In order to write these descriptions I will have to use a variety of resources as catalogues and accessions registers.

The aim of this project is to see how the writing of narratives could benefit the library, for example in having a repository of descriptions that could come at hand in the future . It is a great opportunity for me at present,  as going back to my set of core texts  with a different purpose in mind means  I am having good self-reflective practice on my writing-up, and it is an excellent way to write about my research for audiences beyond academia. I think this experience will be very beneficial for my future, as I will have the opportunity to see how this institution is constituted and how its different parts work together, as well as to think how to apply my research skills and background in similar types of environments and careers.

While looking at the editions I will also plan a public engagement activity in the form of a collection encounter aimed at teenagers, to be part of the Research to the Public strand of this project.

These first five days of my internship have been full of excitement and pure joy, and I am looking forward to see the other fifteen days to unfold, even though I know I will be extremely sad when my  last day as an intern of the Rylands comes.

Veronica Pizzarotti – PhD Candidate in Italian Studies

Research to Profession – Workshop One 06/03/2013


The first Research to Profession workshop took place on 6th March 2013 in the Roscoe Building at the University of Manchester.  The aim of the session was to greet the shortlisted candidates for the Research to Profession strand and to outline expectations of the process.


The first question under consideration was: “what does a research to profession placement look like anyway?”.  The researchers in attendance shared ideas about the “perfect placement” and what that might look like (see photo above).  We also had a lively debate about what to call these partnerships – many believed that the word “placement” was not suitable for researchers and that “partnership” or even “researcher in residence” were perhaps more appropriate terms. As with the Research to Public workshops, we spent some time discussing the benefits of working with cultural organisations, as well as how researchers might work with cultural organisations when designing research partnerships.  The final part of the day was spent discussing the importance of reflective practice in the whole process.

It was an excellent opportunity to meet those who will be involved in research partnerships and we look forward to working with them as they embark on this exciting opportunity!

R2Public and Cultural Partners Workshop: “Working with and training Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers” Workshop

Working with and training Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers
Thursday 28th February, 10am-4pm, The Manchester Museum

In this interactive workshop, Postgraduates/Early Career Researchers and heritage professionals will jointly explore effective ways of working together. By developing mutually beneficial partnerships, we will look at how researchers develop their engagement skills and heritage organisations make the most of researchers and the distinctive contribution contemporary research can make to their collections and spaces. There will be case studies and speakers offering perspectives from both museum and research contexts.

As part of the ‘Afterlife of Heritage Research’ training programme, seed funding is being offered to put on an event, exhibition or engagement activity by June 2013. The workshop will include time and space to work on seed funding competition proposals.

Expression of Interest – Cultural Organisations

The ‘Afterlife of Heritage Research’ Project is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and will be providing a number of training and development workshops and opportunities which will enable postgraduate research students and early career researchers from across the Humanities to identify, understand and ‘translate’ the benefits of their research into ‘real-life’ contexts within the heritage and cultural sectors.

We are looking for expressions of interest from cultural institutions in the North West to take part in this project by:

• Participating in the workshop: “Working with and training postgraduate research students and Early Career Researchers (ECRs)” at the Manchester Museum (Thursday 28th February 2013) and/or
• Offering placement opportunities to postgraduate research students/ECRs

Please see the Expression of Interest for Cultural Partners on how to participate.

Selection and workshop dates

We received a great number of very exciting projects – the selection will now happen in January.

In the meantime, the dates for the Research to Public workshops have been scheduled – pencil them in your diaries:

24th January, 10 to 4pm, Roscoe building room 3.9 (University of Manchester)

28th February, 10 to 4pm, Kanaris Lecture Theatre, Manchester Museum.

Afterlife of Heritage Research – Expressions of Interest

*Deadline for Expression of Interest: Friday 30th November 2012 (download the EoI below)*

The ‘Afterlife of Heritage Research’ Sklls Training Project is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and will be providing a number of training and development workshops and opportunities which will enable postgraduate research students and early career researchers from across the Humanities to identify, understand and ‘translate’ the benefits of their research into ‘real-life’ contexts within the heritage and cultural sectors. Those participating in the project will work closely with cultural partners.

There are three strands within the programme: Research to PublicResearch to Profession and Research to Business. The project is designed to span various disciplines within the arts, social sciences and humanities and is led by the Institute for Cultural Practices at The University of Manchester and the School of Art & Design at The University of Salford, in collaboration with artsmethods@manchester.

We are looking for expressions of interest from PGRs and Early-Career Researchers (ECRs) from UK Universities to take part in one or more skills training strands of the project. This is an ideal opportunity to:

  • understand the public impact of your research and how to turn your research into a public output;
  • gain professional experience in the arts, cultural and heritage sector by participating in a placement scheme; and
  • explore how to turn your research into a business or social enterprise and to be mentored and guided by experts in that area.

All training workshops and training will take place between December 2012 and July 2013. Workshops and events will take place in Manchester and Salford. Some meetings with industrial mentors (Research to Business strand) may take place outside the North West. Travel (and where necessary accommodation) expenses will be reimbursed.

Download the Expression of Interest
Deadline for Expression of Interest: Friday 30th November 2012

If you have any questions about the Training Programme and/or the Expression of Interest, please contact Emily McIntosh, Project Coordinator,