Archives for category: Historical archaeology

I’m sitting in a otherwise empty room in Manchester Metropolitan University’s Righton Building, at about the middle of my first week at MIRIAD, an induction week filled with a general feeling of being a little lost, a week spent meeting about 100 new people and immediately forgetting their names, being handed sheaves of ¬†forms, being frightened by an avalanche of acronyms and initialisms, shuffling to stuffy lecture rooms amongst crowds of equally confused students along corridors that range from brand-new to decrepit, and being reminded by a series of cheerful staff on the one hand what a daunting, if not terrifying challenge we are facing but also what a wonderful experience we are just beginning! Gulp!

I’ve happily explained my research topic to my new peers at least a dozen times, finding, interestingly, that my bumbling description of what I’m going to be doing is different every time! I’ve listened in turn to my 20 or so fellow newbies, who all are starting along fascinating paths to their various MAs or PhDs. Meeting them has been a great experience. We appear to be a friendly, relaxed bunch, refreshingly free of arty-farty bollocks and weirdness, and there seems to be plenty of chemistry amongst our personalities and synergy amongst our research areas. Phew! At least three other PhD researchers will be working on nineteenth century material. I hope some of the results of these parallels will not only appear here but will influence my final thesis. Exciting stuff!

I’ve met, briefly, my Director of Studies, with whom I am going to enjoy interacting (if that’s a suitable term for the supervisory relationship). One of my supervisors is on maternity leave, but, two days in, I’m confident that I’ll not only survive but will enjoy my own process of giving birth to my research project!

And today I learned that the journal World Archaeology is calling for papers for an issue focusing on miniaturisation, which gives me a fantastic and hopefully achievable goal for this time next year…

Oh, and it has rained almost continuously since I arrived in Manchester!

In Small Things Forgotten was the title of what is perhaps the most widely-known book on the historical archaeology of North America. Archaeologist James Deetz wrote it in 1977 as an enthusiastic, inspiring and energising introduction to his area of study, and it has been included in almost every historical archaeology reading list, and read and cited very many times ever since. In my reading of his work, Deetz used the word “small” to indicate that the objects and features he explored were unspectacular, ordinary, mundane, cheap, familiar, often discarded, perhaps easily overlooked and indeed forgotten. He was asking us as archaeologists to recognise and assign big meanings to things previously regarded as insignificant. Ironically, Deetz does not really look at small (as in diminutive) things, things that I call miniatures, objects that are small-scale versions of full-sized originals, real or imagined. It is these small things that I am researching. Mass-produced miniatures share all the characteristics of Deetz”s small things, but I suggest that they have been even more overlooked by archaeologists, especially in the Old World.

From September 2012 I shall be carrying out research for a PhD at Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD).  My broad and unedited scope (it will without doubt change and narrow once I begin to interact with staff and fellow-students) РObjects of Delight: Mass-produced miniatures from the nineteenth century to the present. This blog will parallel that activity, reflecting both my research and life as a (mature) student.