Showcase Event – Abstracts and Biographies

Afterlife of Heritage Research Showcase Event
Tuesday 29th October
Kanaris Theatre, Manchester Museum

Abstracts and Biographies

Naomi Billingsley (University of Manchester), Burning Bright – presenting William Blake in the exhibition and on the World Wide Web

This presentation explores an online exhibition created as part of my Afterlife Project. “Burning Bright” acts as an online legacy of an exhibition which took place at the John Rylands Library in Manchester in Spring 2013 (curated by Stella Halkyard, Visual Collections and Academic Engagement Manager at JRL). It focuses on William Blake’s artistic practice as a book illustrator and engraver, and his creative impact on subsequent generations of artists and writers. The online exhibition expands the content of the physical exhibition and documents activities which took place alongside it (including a workshop for schools and a tour for the general public which I devised).

Naomi Billingsley is a second-year PhD student in Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester, funded by the AHRC and a President’s Doctoral Award from the University of Manchester. her thesis examines the roles of Christ in the visual works of William Blake. As an undergraduate, she studied Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Cambridge, where she first developed an interest in how images can act as works of theology, which she took further through an MA in Christianity and the Arts at King’s College London and the National Gallery. Part of the appeal of coming to Manchester for her PhD project was the wealth of Blake materials at the John Rylands Library (and elsewhere in Manchester), and she has enjoyed being able to make use of some of these materials, and to share them with a wider audience through her activities as part of the Afterlife project.


Juliet Carroll (Liverpool John Moores University), A celebration of the Della Robbia Pottery of Birkenhead

The Della Robbia Pottery in Birkenhead was established in 1894 by Harold Rathbone, sometime poet and artist, inspired by his own experiences as a cultural tourist in Italy and by the work of the artist Luca Della Robbia, a fifteenth century Florentine Master. Although short lived, the work and legacy of the pottery has an important part of the cultural history of Merseyside. This Heritage Afterlife project introduced a more dynamic interaction with the collection of Della Robbia pottery at the Williamson Art Gallery by bringing a local ceramist into the gallery and inviting local people to creatively respond to the distinctive work of the nineteenth century pottery. Considered a great success by both the Williamson Art Gallery and the participants, the positive impact of this project has been enhanced by the experience of several of the participants who have reported that the event met long-cherished creative ambitions. By repositioning aspects of academic research into the practical experience of making and decorating, the project has woven together the two distinct narratives of artistic practice and art historical research

Juliet Carroll studies at Liverpool John Moores University and received an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award in October 2012 in partnership with the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead. Juliet is investigating the extent to which the Della Robbia Pottery of Birkenhead might act as a unique expression of cultural, aesthetic and commercial shifts that took place at the end of the nineteenth century and is principally concerned with the rise of cultural tourism at this time. Although recent academic studies have explored the complex relationship between the middle-class traveller and the Italian picturesque, this doctoral thesis will examine the impact of this relationship on the aesthetics of late Victorian art. Juliet lectures on BA History of Art at Liverpool John Moores University and is involved in exhibition practice at several venues in the Northwest.


Katherine Crouch (University of Manchester), Displaying the Dead at the Manchester Museum

This paper relates my experience of undertaking a visitor-tracking study at the Manchester Museum as part of the Afterlife of Heritage Research Project. Initially entering the project as a ‘selfish researcher’, I was primarily interested in gathering data for my thesis on the role of mortuary archaeology in contemporary British culture. The recent refurbishment of the ‘Ancient Worlds’ galleries at the Manchester Museum presented an opportunity to critically explore visitor responses towards the display of human remains in British culture at this time, together with evaluating the success of the museum’s approach towards the display of the dead and the popularity of such displays with the public.

Yet, what I did not expect in embarking upon this study is the impact that it would have upon me as a first-year doctoral student. Discovering an interest in ethnography during the course of the study through observing visitor behaviour, participating in this project has taken my PhD research in new and unexpected directions. As such, this paper not only discusses the details and results from the visitor-tracking study at the Manchester Museum, but also reflects on its impact on my development as a researcher and more broadly on the question as to whether initiatives like the Afterlife of Heritage Research Project should constitute a part of the standard PhD programme offer.

Katherine Crouch is is a PhD student at the University of Manchester, based in the department of Archaeology. She is currently researching the role of mortuary archaeology in contemporary British culture in mediating public and professional attitudes towards mortality.


Sophie Everest, Andy Hardman and Benjamin Knowles (Belle Vue Productions) Producing Research: starting a research-led production company in the arts and heritage sector

Sophie Everest, Andy Hardman and Benjamin Knowles formed Belle Vue Productions in January 2013 after reading the call for expression of interest in the Research to Business strand of the Afterlife of Heritage project. The idea of the company was to fuse their combined knowledge and experience in film and web production with their respective research interests in museum studies, art history and history. For the last 10 months they have been balancing their PhDs with producing films and websites for a range of clients within and outside of academia. Today they talk about the different projects they have been involved in and the continuing need to manage the relationship between research and business in what they do. They also talk about their role in documenting the Afterlife project as a way of capturing the researcher-cultural partner relationship.


Serena Iervolino (University of Leicester) with Adam Jaffer, (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery), On the opportunities and challenges of heritage/academia co-productions: ‘Women and Colonial Photography: Subjects of Knowledge or Objects of Desire’ at BMAG

European museums holding collections of colonial photographs are confronted with complex questions about how, today, these materials can be ethically presented. Particularly, colonial photographs and postcards portraying ‘indigenous’ women, often posing bare-breasted for European – usually male – photographers, pose challenges for museums with diverse audiences. Should museums ‘hide’ these collections in their stores or should they (try to) tell the stories of those – often unnamed – women, the photographers and the historical contexts in which these images were produced? Is there perhaps another possibility?

Drawing on the collaborative project ‘Women and Colonial Photography: Subjects of Knowledge or Objects of Desire’ at BMAG (funded through the Research2Public strand of the ‘Afterlife of Heritage Research’ Project), it will be suggested that these collections can be used in ways that draw attention to their problematic nature by both unleashing the power relationships they embody and highlighting their contemporary relevance. The talk will draw attention to the possibilities that productive collaborations between researchers and heritage professionals can engender by employing problematic collections in creative, participatory and risk-taking collaborative projects.

We shall discuss how this experimental project succeeded in exploring BMAG’s collection of colonial photography and its fascinating similarities with how nowadays the female body is still used (for instance, in today’s advertisements), and in generating debate and reflection around this problematic collection. Furthermore, we will consider the challenges the project confronted and reflect upon the complexities that academia/heritage co-productions might entail. The ‘obstacles’ encountered by a researcher who was ostensibly an ‘outsider’ will also be examined. What did we learn through the process? The talk attempts to highlight both the opportunities and challenges that collaborations between museum professionals and researchers can generate.

Dr. Serena Iervolino is a museologist and is currently working as an Early Career Researcher on the ‘All Our Stories’ Project at the Science Museum, London. Serena’s broader area of research and scholarship focuses on the potential of museums to promote social change and create cultural value by engaging with issues of diversity and inequality. Her research is located at the intersection of museum studies, cultural policy, and political theory. In June 2013 Serena completed her PhD at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. In her doctoral thesis entitled ‘Ethnographic Museums in Mutation. Experiments with Exhibitionary Practices in Post/Colonial Europe’ she explores processes of change that ethnographic museums are undergoing in an attempt to redefine their place and role in post/colonial, multicultural Europe. Serena has presented papers at international conferences, including the ‘Sixth International Conference on the Inclusive Museum’ (National Art Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2013). Her recent publications include: Iervolino, S. (2013) ‘Museums, migrant communities and intercultural dialogue in Italy’ in Golding, V., Modest, W. (eds.) Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections and Collaboration.

Adam Jaffer is Curator of World Cultures at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG). He is responsible for research, display and interpretation of collections from Ancient Egypt and the Near East, European Prehistory, Pre-Colombian Central and South America and ethnography (Africa, Asia, the Americas and Pacific). He also leads on temporary exhibitions.


Alex McDonagh (University of Salford), Ancient Worlds Online. Identifying the role of digital heritage applications in the Ancient Worlds exhibition at Manchester Museum

Identifying the role of digital heritage applications in the Ancient Worlds exhibition at Manchester Museum. This presentation aims to show how the development of the web app along with interviews and questionnaires help to identify any demand for digital access to the Ancient Worlds exhibition. The project also aims to identify any benefits that digital access may bring to the Ancient Worlds experience and highlight the drawbacks that have been discovered throughout the development process. The presentation will cover an analysis of the limited data that have been collected, drawing some conclusions about the role of web apps and their potential for Manchester Museum along with some more general observations about the role of digital media in heritage. A brief discussion of the methodological problems which arose during the project will also be included.

Alex McDonagh is a PhD research student at the University of Salford exploring issues of digital culture in the field of heritage interpretation. Alex’s current research is focused on the portrayal of natural heritage through the use of digital media and aims to explore how thoughts and feelings about woodlands might be translated successfully into a digital context and how this might contribute to a search for a commonality of heritage interpretation across social strata. Alex’s research interests include heritage, intangibility, ancient history, simulations and reality theory.


Louise Rebecca Senior (University of Aberdeen), Forest Encounters: The value of starting where the people are

The process initiated by attending the Afterlife of Heritage training has led me to a deepened understanding of best practice in public engagement exercises. My project, a social history trail through a community managed forest in the far North of Scotland, has not only allowed me to reflect on my approach to communicating my research to the public, but also to develop key skills in joint working with a cultural partner, the Dunnet Forestry Trust. In particular, the value of beginning an engagement activity where people are already at, as opposed to struggling to bring them to me, has been highlighted in a very tangible way. Further, having developed an honest and effective working relationship with the people who represent my cultural partner early on in the process has proved fundamental to the overall success of my project.

My presentation will be a testament to some of the people who have helped me along the way and will provide an illustrative account of a number of the challenges and successes we have experienced on our collaborative journey.

Louise Senior is a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen where she studies anthropology. After graduating as a youth worker in 2006, she worked in the field of community drug and alcohol treatment for five years before embarking on an MSc in Development Anthropology at Durham University. Her research on diversity and equality in the Transition Towns movement led to a keen interest in people’s relationship with their environment. Her current PhD research has taken her to the far North of Scotland where she is conducting ethnographic fieldwork to explore the complex relationships between people, power and the environment. As part of this research, she has worked alongside local people to establish a social history of Dunnet Forest, the most northerly community managed forest in Britain. This aspect of her research explores the numerous human stories linked to the forest, the importance of the opportunities offered by the forest to the community, and documents the regional and national links that its creation and maintenance has facilitated.


Wendy Ligon Smith and Sophie Preston (University of Manchester), Film: An Evening of Fashion, Music, Art and Marcel Proust

This video documents the Thursday Lates event at the Manchester Art Gallery, ‘An Evening of Fashion, Music, Art and Marcel Proust’. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Proust’s first volume of his long novel In Search of Lost Time, Swann’s Way, Wendy and Sophie led visitors on a multi-sensory journey back in time to the late 19th century Parisian salons from which the novel was born. The tour encompassed highlighted works from the Gallery’s collection that related to Proust’s novel and included RNCM musicians who performed chamber music throughout the gallery.

Sophie Preston is embarking on her second year of research for a PhD in Art History at the University of Manchester. Looking at the concept of ‘drawing to write’, Sophie’s research focuses on the drawings of Marcel Proust (1871-1922) embedded in the draft manuscripts of In Search of Lost Time, the doodles of French philosopher and semiotician Roland Barthes (1915-1980) and the drawn words of the American artist Cy Twombly (1928-2011). Her PhD acknowledges and celebrates the necessity of writing without words, of having to draw. Sophie has given talks at University of Oxford, The Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery and is a Graduate Teaching Assistant in Art History, teaching a second year course entitled ‘Afterlife of the Object’.

Wendy Ligon Smith is currently in the final stages of writing a PhD thesis on the designer Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949), based on archival research at the Museo Fortuny in Venice. It was her study of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, undertaken alongside Prof. Carol Mavor and Prof. Alice Kaplan, which ultimately led her to Fortuny. Wendy has given talks at the Courtauld Institute, Oxford University and for the Renaissance Society of America. This December Wendy will deliver a lecture on Fortuny and Wagner for the bicentennial Wagner celebration in Bayreuth.


Sarah Younan (Cardiff Metropolitan University), Towards a Digital Dream Space

Objects can become staging grounds for symbolic action. When objects enter the museum, they are removed from primary experience and embedded in narrative. Museum objects can elucidate historical or scientific knowledge, they can be of aesthetic and educational value. However they can also elicit personal memories, blending inner and outer experience into one. Today three-dimensional (3D) scanning technologies allow us to capture the form of real objects, and to store them as digital files. Drawing upon theories on the perception of museum objects, with special attention given to theories on the dream space (see Mills, 2011, Kavanagh, 2000, Annis, 1986), my research investigates how digital 3D models of museum artefacts can be used to interact with museum audiences to make the museum dream space manifest.

Sarah Younan was born in Germany and grew up in Kenya, she has lived and worked in Germany, France and The Netherlands. Younan is presently a PhD student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Her research interest lies in the impact of 3D scanning and printing technologies on audience perception of museum artefacts. She works closely with the National Museum of Wales. The British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) fund her research. She has always had a great interest in the bonds humans form with objects. In order to get behind what connects us to objects Younan has conducted ethnographic research in the world of teapots and is now raiding the ceramics collections at the National Museum of Wales.


2 thoughts on “Showcase Event – Abstracts and Biographies

  1. Pingback: Afterlife of Heritage Research – Showcase Event | The Afterlife of Heritage Research Project

  2. Pingback: Afterlife of Heritage Research – Showcase Event | The Heritage of Afterlife Research Project

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