Ed Owens – Blog 1: Trying to Bridge the Academic and Popular History Divide

Ed Owens – Blog 1: Trying to Bridge the Academic and Popular History Divide

Since beginning my PhD in Modern British History in 2011, it has become increasingly clear that if I am to enhance my eventual employment opportunities then my current project must engage a broad audience that extends beyond the academy. The keyword here is impact. Often banded about by policy-makers, higher education institutions and funding bodies without what appears to be any clear idea of its precise meaning, the ever-elusive ‘impact’ plays a crucial part in the government’s strategic investment in the Arts and Humanities http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/kei/impacts/Pages/meanbyimpact.aspx. Generally speaking, ‘impact’ requires that academic research is made relevant, tangible even, so that it might have a meaningful influence on life outside of the academy. In this way, generating ‘impact’ can range from increasing knowledge of a particular subject through public exhibitions to effecting government policy in health, housing or education. These are just a couple of examples, the broad umbrella term ‘impact’ encompassing such an extensive range of activities that at times it can appear overly vague and remote.

Cue The Afterlife of Heritage Research Project – ‘Research to Public’ strand, which has presented researchers like me with a unique opportunity to explore the ways in which we can generate ‘impact’ with our work. Run by a team well-acquainted with the growing importance of public engagement, the scheme has allowed me to join with an external cultural partner to organise an event that will broaden public awareness and understanding on a number of key themes related to my research. The Afterlife Team ran two intensive and highly structured day-workshops that helped us formulate ideas both for possible events and potential collaborations. In the first workshop we were made to think in greater detail about how we can make our work more accessible and relevant in terms of public engagement. In part, this was about user-friendliness and the need to eschew academic jargon when communicating with groups of people less familiar with some of the complex terms involved in our research. It was also about trying to capture the essence of our research in a way that will ensure it appeals to those less familiar with the topic.

At the second workshop we met a number of cultural partners located by the Afterlife Team who were looking to meet researchers with whom they might collaborate. This proved very encouraging both in terms of the cultural partners’ approachability and their real enthusiasm for the kinds of ideas that we hoped to convert into public-orientated events. In the activities organised as part of this workshop we also learnt about the kind of influences cultural partners could exercise to benefit our collaborations, such as advertising for the event, and the building of other networking opportunities. At this point, we researchers had been shortlisted for the ‘Research to Public’ strand, though we were yet to submit our final proposals for the all-important funding that would allow us to run our projects. In respect of this, the second workshop instructed us how to prepare our proposals with special emphasis on imagination and innovation, and we also discussed the need to establish strong communications with our cultural partners so that we would fully benefit from the kind of assistance they could offer us.

By this point, I had in fact already located a cultural partner in the Institute of Historical Research http://www.history.ac.uk/. The contacts I made at the IHR via email were very enthusiastic about collaborating with a postgraduate historian and were particularly open-minded in terms of the idea for the event that I proposed to run with their help. One of the major focuses of my PhD is the way new kinds of visual media changed how ordinary people experienced and understood the role of monarchy in the middle decades of twentieth-century Britain. The very contemporary nature of this study and the enduring public interest in the royal family means that discussion about my PhD usually leads to more informal gossiping on Prince William and Kate Middleton, royal babies, the likely succession of Prince Charles and the future of monarchy. In this way, monarchy’s unceasing presence in society has meant that my PhD topic often lends itself to stimulating the thoughts of people outside of academia, because almost everybody has an opinion on the royal family, be it positive or negative.

Accordingly, I’ve planned a one-day event that I feel will appeal to a broader public’s sensibilities. Focusing on royal weddings from the interwar years in Britain and their representation in the new visual media of the newsreels of this period, I have set out to demonstrate how a popular image of monarchy was very carefully constructed to draw special attention to the romance, the babies and the gossip, which have remained so integral to the royals’ image through to the present today. My aims are threefold: to introduce the monarchy as a topic worthy of serious scholarship, stressing that the popular image of the royal family requires investigation if we are to fully appreciate the enduring social and cultural power of the Crown as a focal point of British national identity and community. Secondly, I’m particularly interested in advancing how we think about visual images in history and the way they have been used by the national media to present narratives to audiences. My area of expertise is newsreel and, accompanied by a number of other researchers working in this field, I want to use this one-day event to publicise the importance of the newsreel as a historical source and the new kinds of methodologies with which they are being approached. Finally, I intend to use this workshop to highlight how the process of digitisation is providing researchers with increased access to sources like newsreels, and how this affects the way historians ‘do’ history.

The format for this one-day workshop hosted by the IHR at Senate House in London is varied, involving several speakers on the aforementioned subjects as well as a number of interactive group-based activities and discussions. Aimed at researchers working both in and outside of history, and notably, professionals working in the media industry (interested either in the royal family or who have utilised newsreels in their work), this event will bring together a diverse group of people to learn more about the monarchy’s long-lasting and vital relationship with visual media, and how newly available visual sources are changing how we think about history, and how it is subsequently produced.

 

 

 

Charlotte Boman – Early Stages: Thinking about Photography & Education

I. Early Stages: Thinking about Photography and Education

My Afterlife of Heritage Project, ‘Photographing the Family. Workshops for Schools & Colleges’, is closely connected to my PhD research topic, which involves looking at photographic representations of family life in the mid-Victorian period. One of the most challenging and interesting aspects of being part of this public engagement project, I think, has been to explore the boundaries and defining features that distinguish one from the other.

The initial aim behind setting up these school workshop activities was to provide a space for exploring photographic images. More specifically, to ‘read’ ordinary family photographs and to explore associations between how families presented themselves in the Victorian period and how we represent our private, domestic life today. In planning the activities I also wanted to create opportunities for thinking about broader questions, including how photography contributed to the publication of privacy from the start. The Victorians were, after all, at least as troubled by these issues as we are today.

From my point of view, the choice of Glamorgan Archives as a potential cultural partner followed naturally from my research into Victorian photographic collections in Wales. Coincidentally, I met one of the archivists at a ‘Careers in cultural heritage’ event at Cardiff University in November and the collaboration developed in stages after that. Although the archive frequently engages with schools, they were keen to expand their collaboration with secondary schools and, in particular, to engage with the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification. As a result, the initial planning focused to a large degree on researching the WBQ, communicating with the Welsh education board (WJEC) and mapping out connections between my research, the Glamorgan collection and the curriculum. During Jan/early Feb., I had a number of meetings with Rhian Phillips, who is responsible for public engagement at Glamorgan archives, but also Ross Thomas from WJEC. The Afterlife workshop proved very useful at this point, not least because it had alerted me to the fact that each partner brings distinct skills and knowledge, but also a slightly different set of priorities.

At the same time, I was developing resources for the workshop, gradually incorporating material that surfaced in the collections, whilst accommodating the key principles of the WBQ. I think it has been a huge advantage to work with a small institution simply because it makes communication and face-to-face meetings much more straightforward. I was really pleased, for instance, that Rhian and I could attend the second workshop together.

The support from WJEC has been extremely valuable. One of the difficulties associated with working with schools/colleges is that you are trying to ‘sell’ extra-curricular activities that often involve cost, effort and somewhat vague benefits (having previously taught in a sixth form college I am familiar with the scenario!). However, the WBQ is not only much more open to learning outside the classroom, but the board actively promotes learning opportunities provided by outside agencies via its online library and communication. Nevertheless, trips take money out of the school budgets so being able to offer support for teacher cover is crucial, especially for schools in deprived areas.

The first workshop is booked for late May, so we shall see…

Charlotte Boman – Early Stages: Thinking about Photography & Education

I. Early Stages: Thinking about Photography and Education

My Afterlife of Heritage Project, ‘Photographing the Family. Workshops for Schools & Colleges’, is closely connected to my PhD research topic, which involves looking at photographic representations of family life in the mid-Victorian period. One of the most challenging and interesting aspects of being part of this public engagement project, I think, has been to explore the boundaries and defining features that distinguish one from the other.

The initial aim behind setting up these school workshop activities was to provide a space for exploring photographic images. More specifically, to ‘read’ ordinary family photographs and to explore associations between how families presented themselves in the Victorian period and how we represent our private, domestic life today. In planning the activities I also wanted to create opportunities for thinking about broader questions, including how photography contributed to the publication of privacy from the start. The Victorians were, after all, at least as troubled by these issues as we are today.

From my point of view, the choice of Glamorgan Archives as a potential cultural partner followed naturally from my research into Victorian photographic collections in Wales. Coincidentally, I met one of the archivists at a ‘Careers in cultural heritage’ event at Cardiff University in November and the collaboration developed in stages after that. Although the archive frequently engages with schools, they were keen to expand their collaboration with secondary schools and, in particular, to engage with the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification. As a result, the initial planning focused to a large degree on researching the WBQ, communicating with the Welsh education board (WJEC) and mapping out connections between my research, the Glamorgan collection and the curriculum. During Jan/early Feb., I had a number of meetings with Rhian Phillips, who is responsible for public engagement at Glamorgan archives, but also Ross Thomas from WJEC. The Afterlife workshop proved very useful at this point, not least because it had alerted me to the fact that each partner brings distinct skills and knowledge, but also a slightly different set of priorities.

At the same time, I was developing resources for the workshop, gradually incorporating material that surfaced in the collections, whilst accommodating the key principles of the WBQ. I think it has been a huge advantage to work with a small institution simply because it makes communication and face-to-face meetings much more straightforward. I was really pleased, for instance, that Rhian and I could attend the second workshop together.

The support from WJEC has been extremely valuable. One of the difficulties associated with working with schools/colleges is that you are trying to ‘sell’ extra-curricular activities that often involve cost, effort and somewhat vague benefits (having previously taught in a sixth form college I am familiar with the scenario!). However, the WBQ is not only much more open to learning outside the classroom, but the board actively promotes learning opportunities provided by outside agencies via its online library and communication. Nevertheless, trips take money out of the school budgets so being able to offer support for teacher cover is crucial, especially for schools in deprived areas.

The first workshop is booked for late May, so we shall see…

Della Robbia Pottery in the 21st C – blog post by Juliet Carroll

Della Robbia Pottery in the 21C –  blog post by Juliet Carroll 

 pottery1

Measurable……..Impact……..Longevity………

Words of policyspeak that indicate that essential academic skills in 21st century Britain include the ability to make research accessible and relevant in a way that can be computed and quantified – a daunting thought.

I was keen to attend the training sessions to learn these skills. Although I missed the first workshop due to a prearranged research trip I enjoyed the second one immensely. Three key points that I took from the session were

  • Simple, easy understood proposals with a straight forward execution are good
  • Good communication is paramount – keep in regular contact with cultural partners, supervisors and directors of study.
  • To be bold and confident in my thinking.

At that point I had not discussed the proposal with my cultural partner – I felt some trepidation about suggesting that the newly refurbished gallery should be turned into an amateur ceramics studio, complete with glazes and wet clay. However, the gallery was enthusiastic and supportive and offered to fund an extension of the project if it proved successful.

The proposal: to celebrate the work of the Della Robbia Pottery of Birkenhead by inviting participants into the newly reopened Williamson Gallery to work with a local ceramicist  to create and glaze a ceramic piece in the distinctive style of the nineteenth century studio pottery.

By recreating the studio of this Arts and Crafts pottery, the would-be potters and decorators will experience the ethos of the pottery, and indeed of the Arts and Crafts movement, that puts a clear emphasis on creativity and individuality, in which a precise manufacturing process with division of labour plays no part. Advice from the workshop was to limit my participants to an older age group – U3A, local history groups – rather than riotous school children. However, the director of the gallery is keen to extend the project if my bid is successful and the undertaking proved viable and would include school children in the future. Thus the project has an extended afterlife – this could become a regular event at the museum. I am also pleased that the reputation of the Della Robbia Pottery will grow in a practical and accessible way rather than being restricted by the academic confines of my PhD.

 pottery2

 

Kyra Pollitt on lessons learned from preparing her Research to Public events.

Kyra Pollitt on lessons learned from preparing her Research to Public events.

Of course I think my PhD is interesting. To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davis, I would say that wouldn’t I? But I don’t foresee a queue forming outside Waterstone’s in eager anticipation of the submission of my thesis. So when I came across artsmethods@manchester’s Research to Public strand, offering guidance on making my research public-facing, I was immediately excited. After all, what’s the point of research if it’s not meaningful to reality?

Research to Public offered two structured and intensive full day workshops at the University of Manchester, supplemented by documentation and an online presence designed to prize open the rusty doors of the ivory tower and let the daylight of practicality flood in.

Eager applicants to the scheme were initially subject to a selection process before being invited to the first workshop. Then, after considerable input, we were sent forth into the big wide world and told to come back with an institutional partner- a gallery, museum or other public institution interested in our proposal and willing to play host. The second workshop honed our ability to co-operate with our partners and the resulting carefully budgeted and considered proposals were then submitted to a panel charged with distributing prize funding.

I am very fortunate to have had my proposal selected, and I write this on the eve of the first of the two events that I proposed. As you can imagine, the whole process has been challenging in lots of ways; some anticipated, some unexpected, but all very, very useful. So here are some of the lessons I’ve learned thus far. I apologise if you already know them, but some of us are slower on the uptake.

Lesson 1:  Don’t be precious

There’s wisdom in that there Kenny Rogers song about knowing ‘when to fold ‘em’ and ‘when to hold ‘em’. There may be some ideas that are worth being deeply precious about, but these are rare. Actively seek the opinions and contributions of others. Be honest with yourself about your level of commitment to the idea as it stands, and give due and respectful consideration to the tweaks others propose. Every contributor (from the gallery curator to the chatty passenger sharing your train journey) brings different expertise; learn to harness it.

Lesson 2: Network

Contributing to as many networks as you can effectively manage is good for your creative soul. It’s also kind of karmic. I had cold-called a number of institutions who were all enthusiastic but already committed to a schedule, before a network connection yielded an introduction to an institution that wasn’t even on my list. It turns out the institution was looking for something that would reach beyond its usual remit and demographic, and I could propose just the thing. Who knew?

Lesson 3: Refining is a lived process

Like most other things in life – and unlike the fairy tales I’m still addicted to – perfect proposals don’t just appear fully-formed, ready-sprinkled with magic dust. Business proposals, academic theses, paintings, life – all require adjustments and rewrites.

Lesson 4: Plan and anticipate

Like the archetypal mum checking before her child leaves for school in the morning- Homework? Packed lunch? Gym kit? Keys? Hanky? Umbrella? It was quite fun spending time just thinking about all the possibilities and unlikelihoods surrounding the events I’d proposed. It was even more fun when the gallery curator was able to identify a few more.

Lesson 5: Make it real

Isn’t there some great quote from a famous person about the number of brilliant ideas that lie gathering dust in obscurity? Despite what I hope (with some effort) is a bubbly public persona, I’m actually ‘a bit behind the door’ so the process of taking an idea and making it real has been quite exhilarating. It’s both humbling and inspiring when other people believe enough in your idea to lend themselves to it. Ok, so I may have had to gather myself a little before plastering my event all over Facebook and Twitter but the whole R2P process has given me renewed confidence in my ability to communicate to others through writing, talking, thinking and sharing, and ultimately performing. I think it’s no coincidence that my painting and sculpting, as well as my academic writing also seem to have received a bit of a boost.

I’ve spent today having final meetings with the artists involved, gathering the hardware I’ll need for the space, making a Blue Peter style audience contributions box, monitoring the Twitter publicity spread (currently standing at 45 RTs, 7 mentions and 3 favourites), and checking the Bank Holiday weekend weather forecast (chance of rain, 13˚C).

What are we planning?  Will it work? Will anyone care? These tales will be told in the next blog. For now, let’s see what new lessons tomorrow brings…

 

Blog Post by Sarah Younan

Sometimes working on a PhD can be dry, slow, overwhelming. And then sometimes there are days that take yo by the horns and drag you forward. Today was such a day.

I met with Gareth Loudon (http://cardiff-school-of-art-and-design.org/staff/garethloudon/) for a tutorial in the morning. Gareth’s area of expertise is, amongst others, ethnography. I picked his brain on how to go about my intended research. I hope to extend the public impact of museum objects by 3d scanning ceramic artefacts from the collections of the National Museum of Wales, and then using these scans, to:

a)     create colaborative projects with artists working in digital media

b)     make copies of the original objects through 3d print and/or traditional craft techniques in order to emerge them in everyday live.

These copies will be handed out to volunteers, to take home, to use, to contemplate, to re-emerge museum objects in the wear and tear of everyday life. Life for objects, as for people, is fraught with risk. These copies might be apreciated and cared for, they might be neglected and forgotten, they might be used out of context, they could end up chipped or broken – either way new stories will be created. Stories about interaction with these objects, about what might be the fate of the original, where it not preserved in the museum, but thrown into everyday life.

This is what my contribution to the Afterlife of Heritage project, a story, a potential afterlife tale about objects from and beyond the museum.

My next stop was the museum, there I met with Andrew Renton, head of applied arts at the National Museum of Wales. We went to a storage room and I chose two objects to scan. I have worked with 3D  scanners before ( I am using a NextEngine tabletop scanner at the moment) and was aware that scanning two ceramic objects would take up quite some time. The objects I chose were a Meissen porcelain cup, with a basket-weave moulded border, and an ice cup and cover, the cover has a little squirrel sitting on it.

It took most of the morning and afternoon to scan these objects. I prepared them by spraying them with Talcum powder, as the glossy surface of glazed ceramics can confuse the lazer of the 3d scanner. I then did some test scans to find out the optimal distance, ambient light and scanner settings. For the cup, the ice cup and its cover I did a 360 degree scan each, and further single scans for areas that were difficult to see.

As I was working with objects from the collections Andrew stayed with me, to supervise and also to learn more about 3d scanning. We talked about museums, collections, about artist interventions and about digital strategies in museums.

Andrew likes to push the boundaries of his work. As a currator he has on several occasions collaborated with artists. This has led to the production of work and exhibitions, which challenged the notion of the museum and proposde new ways of experiencing museum artefacts. Two artists who have interacted with the ceramics collections in ways, that question and challenge the museum’s traditional practise of preserving artefacts, by removing them from interaction and lived experience are Edmund de Waal and David Cushway. De Waal investigated and re-displayed objects from the ceramics collection alongside his own pieces in 2005. He removed the museum objects from their glass cases and displayed them on a large plinth, unprotected and within reach of the audience. His own work took the place of the museum objects in the glass cases.

Cushway’s project in 2012 went even further. Together with Andrew the artist removed a porcellain tea set from its glass case and the two of them sat down to drink tea from these pieces. This performance was filmed and is now available on Cushway’s website: http://www.davidcushway.co.uk/2012/Teatime_at_the_Museum.html

I see these artist’s projects as a genealogy of my own involvement.

In the digital realm any transgression is possible. Objects no longer need to be preserved; the touch of a button is enough to restore digital models to their previous state. The former observer of museum objects can become and actor.

Safe. Edit. Delete. Undo. Merge. Distort. Send. Print.

3D printers can make the digital file physically manifest, once, twice, many times, and copies of museum objects, not quite the original, but more than souvenirs, can find their way back into everyday life.

It was with some trepidation… – Blog Post by Julia Bennett

Julia Bennett: Afterlife of Heritage, Research to Public Blog No 1

It was with some trepidation that I approached the first Research to Public workshop at the end of January. I had applied for the funding under both this and the Research to Profession strand on the basis of ‘if you don’t apply, you won’t get it’. As a sociologist I thought I was perhaps entering into alien territory by applying for AHRC funding. However with a PhD littered with references to the work of anthropologists, architects and archaeologists, as well as sociologists, I felt it was worth a try. Actually attending a workshop with artists and poets and people who seem to be spending their PhD years researching things rather than talking to people, as I had, was still pretty daunting though. Name tags were laid out on the tables so I didn’t have the option of scanning the room for familiar faces (there weren’t any). I needn’t have worried – everyone was friendly and the variety of research topics intriguing. I sat with Daisy studying Mystery Plays; and Lauren an anthropologist from Texas via Belfast studying dance (I didn’t know that was anthropology too); and Charlotte looking at old photos which sounds fascinating too.

The workshop itself was engaging and interactive. I loved the envelopes full of words and have resolved to use that idea when teaching. The importance of reflective practice was a timely reminder – I always start out with the best intentions to write a research diary every week, but it often slips from view with other tasks taking priority. Loved the idea of the onion too and have already used that in my ‘day job’ as a research associate to focus on impact on the schools we are working with.

Leaving the first workshop full of enthusiasm I emailed my proposed cultural partner shortly afterwards. The first person I contacted couldn’t help, but she would pass on my request. I waited for a reply. Let a week go by. Emailed again, trying not to sound too worried (did no reply mean they weren’t interested?). No, just that the boss is on holiday for a week. Waited another week. Eventually the response was that we love your ideas but are busy restructuring our organisation and wouldn’t be able to work with you in the timeframes needed. By this point my enthusiasm for the whole thing was waning a little. I had also contacted another organisation with no response from them either. By now it was late February with the second workshop looming. Shall I go, or is my proposal dead in the water through lack of a cultural partner? Oh well, it will be nice to see people again and catch up and there’s a free lunch …

 

So the second workshop. I sat on a table with lots of ‘unattached’ cultural partners, it did feel a bit like speed-dating (I’m guessing, I’ve never been speed-dating).  We introduced ourselves so I was able to get an idea of who might be interested in my proposal, which I had conveniently brought with me. I was looking for an organisation in the right kind of place or community, as my research is all about place and belonging. Saskia from Z-Arts in Hulme seemed nice, and didn’t have a partner. Hulme – I knew it was in Manchester, but that’s all. So I asked Saskia to look at my proposal during the coffee break. And yes, she thought there were some good ideas in there, as well as some, such as the competition element I’d suggested, that wouldn’t work too well. So after lunch we sat down together and clarified our ideas, thinking about what the impact would be and coming up with some rough costings.

I went home again reinvigorated with enthusiasm for the project and wrote up our revised proposal, sent if off and waited. And then, just in time for Easter, got the fantastic news that we had the funding!

Burning Bright, Part 1: Blog Post by Naomi Billingsley

Burning Bright. Part 1: KindlingImage

My project is linked to the exhibition “Burning Bright” at the John Rylands Library which examines William Blake and the world of the book.  The exhibition includes books illustrated by Blake and explores his impact on subsequent generations of artists and writers. Blake’s influence continues to “burn bright” and activities alongside the exhibition encourage visitors to take creative inspiration from his work.

Blake’s work as a visual artist is the focus of my PhD — specifically, I am examining the role of Christ in Blake’s images — so I had a ready-made opportunity to relate my research to public audiences. The Afterlife training has helped me to refine my ideas for contributing to the exhibition programme by examining some of the issues around public engagement and creating a space for discussion with other researchers and cultural organisations.

There are three strands to my project: creating a workshop for school groups inspired by the exhibition, devising a tour for the public programme, and contributing to an online version of the exhibition. After months of meetings, planning and looking at books in the reading room, things are coming together, so I’m going to share how things are shaping up.

Schools workshop: Blake and the Bible

Taking as its inspiration Blake’s Illustrations to the Book of Job, a copy of which is in the exhibition (and was only recently discovered in the Rylands collection), my workshop will explore different ways of retelling stories from the Bible, with students creating their own version of a Bible story. I’m going to give the students a choice of producing either a design in the format of Blake’s Job illustrations (which have an image in the centre with commentary and designs in the margin) or a newspaper article.

Preparing for this workshop has involved lots of discussion with the education team and I’ve sat in on some other workshops in the education programme to help get a feel for what works well. There are also two MA students, Liz and Amy, running workshops alongside the exhibition, and each of us has chosen a different theme. I sat in on one of Amy’s workshops last week, which was on personification, with pupils writing personification poems, and it was fantastic to see how well the pupils engaged with the theme.

I’m going to be running my session for five groups between years 7 – 10 in the middle of May and I’m looking forward to seeing what results come of it!

Advertising for the exhibition education programme.

Public tour: Blake and the Gothic

This tour will explore Blake’s fascination with the Gothic, inspired by the John Rylands Library itself which is a grand neo-Gothic building. This will be an opportunity to show visitors items from the collection not included in the exhibition — by Blake himself and by others interested in the Gothic to weave a narrative between Blake and the library building.

Preparation has involved lots of delving through books from the collection and I’ve been spoilt for choice because the collection is so rich in this area, so I have had to be very self-disciplined in deciding what to use. Stella Halkyard who looks after visual collections at the library and curated “Burning Bright” has been a great source of advice and arranged for me to see the massive volumes of Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery which contain some fantastically spooky engravings of subjects from Shakespeare by Blake’s friends and foes.

I’ll be running this tour twice in June.

Burning Bright online

Once all the books in the exhibition have been returned to the stores at the end of Jun, “Burning Bright” will continue to burn in the shape of an online exhibition. This will provide a legacy for the exhibition itself and for the activities which have taken place alongside it. Work produced in the schools workshops is being photographed as are the fruits of printing workshops offered as part of the public programme. I will also be writing up a version of my Gothic tour.

The funding from the Afterlife of Heritage Research Project will help to pay for the photography of items in the collection for the online exhibition. This proposal came in part from discussions during the Afterlife training and afterwards with the team at the library. The images will be a sustainable resource for the online exhibition itself and for other projects at the library, and will be useful for my own and others’ research.

I was part of a meeting about the online exhibition last week and the provisional designs look great, so I’m excited about seeing how it will come together. I’ve come up with an idea for the structure which I need to discuss with the web team, and I need to finalise my order for the photography department, then start writing it all up.

An example of work produced in a printing workshop, inspired by one of Blake’s Illustrations to the Book of Job.

Naomi Billingsley, PhD candidate in Religions and Theology, University of Manchester.

Inspiring Moments – Blog Post by Rebecca Louise Senior

Inspiring Moments

Suzanne’s instructions were to write a short statement that avoided jargon and captured the essence of our research, but also illustrated to a general audience what was important, relevant and interesting about our research.

No problem, I thought. Academic jargon has always left me cold. Using a word like ‘structuralism’ or ‘functionalism’ or ‘neo-liberalism’ in a sentence is a sure-fire way to exclude me from a conversation, because by the time I’ve worked out what the word means, and then fitted that into the context of the sentence, the whole debate has moved on.

My first attempt did not impress Suzanne: I will address key anthropological enquiries, particularly the role of power in person-environment relationships and processes of knowledge production, and broader strategic concerns such as the heritage of land management and rural inequalities.

“What does any of that even mean?” chastised Suzanne.

I tried again, this time making my statement more specific: I am researching the social history of a community managed forest in rural northern Scotland to explore the role of power in environmental knowledge production.

“But why would I care about that?” asked Suzanne. “Why should anybody care?”

“I’m doing ethnographic research into…” My words tailed off as Suzanne raised her eyebrow at the word ‘ethnographic’. I was beginning to feel as frustrated with this task as she must’ve been feeling with me.

“Why do you care about your research?” she probed. “Why do you think it’s interesting? What motivates you to keep going with it?”

“Oh, it’s brilliant!” I gushed. “There are all these fascinating stories that people tell me about the forest, stories about their experiences, about adventures and mishaps, local history stories and political stories…and nobody has ever recorded these stories so it’s all brand new and I’m finding that other people want to hear the stories too, so I just want to be able to share all these stories with everyone somehow!”

Suzanne was nodding her head and smiling at me. “NOW I’m interested,” she said. “That’s what you need to get across to people, that enthusiasm and joy. Not everybody cares about all the philosophical concepts in your PhD, and you don’t need to tell them to everybody. It doesn’t make what you’re doing any less important.”

For me, this informal exchange with Suzanne was the standout moment on the Afterlife of Heritage training, the moment when everything else clicked into place. I had come to the training believing that I was a good communicator, but hoping to gain a little confidence in my public speaking abilities and to learn some creative techniques for presenting my research. This moment made me realise that I was so caught up in my research and what it meant for me, that I had lost sight of the value of my research for other people, and thereby lost my ability to communicate about it effectively. Apart from my PhD supervisors and examiners, most people are unlikely to care whether or not I’ve got to grips with Foucault’s work on power or Ingold’s ideas about dwelling. I don’t need to explain the philosophical underpinnings of my research to everybody I meet, but I do need to be able to express my passion for my research.

After this, the rest was easy. I knew that I wanted to share stories of the forest with people so it made sense to approach Dunnet Forestry Trust with a proposal for a social history trail through the forest. We can’t wait to be able to let you know how our project goes…

Dancing in Unexpected Bodies – Video Blog Post – Lauren Guyer-Douglas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xgx7LflMMVI&feature=youtu.be

The first rehearsal of our project was an exciting one.  We were able to discuss the significance of our project’s aims, and get to know each other through a different dance context.  The session started with a debriefing regarding performance sites and ideas for where the movement would be generated.  ImageHelen, the project’s choreographer, taught a technical warm-up for the dancers, giving a rare opportunity for two dancers who typically receive training from only one facilitator.  From improvised limb-focused movements, to pedestrian inspired travelling, the first session gave the dancers, including the observing dancer (me), valuable perspective of how the next few weeks should be negotiated and the potential to create engaging art.