Archives for posts with tag: research

Over the last few weeks much of my time has been taken up by the minutiae of selling a house. That process having been concluded successfully,  my research student life is returning to a hectic normal.

My first task, to complete the spring edition of the MIRIAD newsletter. I took this on thinking that it was only a matter of laying out existing copy, only to find that most of that copy was raw and unedited, and pretty much unreadable.   So I had to edit, write and source illustrations, as well as dragging more copy from my fellow students. It seems strange to me, having spent much of my life communicating, and believing how important communication is in research (internal and external sharing of what I’m doing – that’s after all surely half the fun) how uninterested some (many?) researchers are in sharing their work and progress.  Perhaps they feel that other activities, such as conference papers, are sufficient. Perhaps they are afraid that someone will take advantage of their hard work and purloin their ideas. But I feel that informal media such as newsletters and social media reach different and often wider audiences and encourage the random but often beneficial phenomenon of serendipity. You never know who might stumble across your work, especially online, where every work is peered at by search bots. And coverage in any media is still worth a mention in a cv.  Anyway, the newsletter is almost finished. Another job jobbed…

I’ve begun using Scrivener as a medium in which to carry out my academic writing process. I’m still climbing its initial learning curve, but so far I’m impressed. It is going to be an invaluable tool for someone like me who has a butterfly brain and who flits from idea to idea and from resource to resource. My first output is the raw draft of a chapter on nineteenth century and present-day attitudes to bric-a-brac, due to be delivered to my supervisors in a day or two.  It feels good to have a few thousand words under my belt!

I’ve begun a collaboration with my fellow researcher Ela, who is working towards an MA by research, and just now I received an email confirming that we’ll be presenting a paper at the Creative Arts and Creative Industries: Collaboration in Practice conference at MMU in June. Ela is researching the Polish displaced families who spent a decade or so in an ex-US army camp in Staffordshire in the 1940s and 50s.  She’ll be using artefacts from their lives as inspiration for her artistic output. She’s discovered that some of the camp is still standing, so I’m going to work with her to research the remains from my archaeological point of view. It’s going to be fun and very useful for my research also. First of many tasks is to deal with the paperwork – the H&S  and ethics forms. Fortunately this is a low-hazard and ethically uncomplicated project, with the main danger probably being nettle stings and insect bites! And it would be nice to have to apply sun-block! The biggest challenge, time!

I’m also beginning a {Code Creatives} “residency” that’s also going to be both challenging and fun (I’ll continue to reside at my desk, but the residency provides support and a tiny budget). My goal is to create, by October, a digital “(anti-)museum.”  You will be able to read more (eventually) at the project blog: The (anti-)museum project. The results will be on show at the opening festivities of the new Art School building.  Busy times!

I’ve come across this passage referred to in two books in the last week. In her work Homes of the London Poor, Octavia Hill, writing of trying to persuade “the poor” to move from what she regarded as “miserable” accommodation to slightly less horrible surroundings wrote:

“Our plan of removing the inhabitants of the miserable underground kitchens to rooms in the upper parts of the houses, did not, strange as it may seem, meet with any approbation at first. They had been so long in the semi-darkness that they felt it an effort to move. One woman, in particular, I remember, pleaded hard with me to let her stop, saying, “My bits of things won’t look anything if you bring them to the light.” By degrees, however, we effected the change.”

For me, the woman’s concern that her “bits of things” should be seen to best advantage is very revealing, and I believe supports my contention that even the poorest (these were people living in dark and dingy cellars and basements) wished to display some objects (a collection?) that reflected well on their owners.

Hill, Octavia. Homes of the London Poor. Fortnightly Review, November 1866.

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) – Objects 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.