Friday, 23 June 2017

Where to Publish? An Interdisciplinary Guide

When research is externally evaluated, and even when it isn’t, the choice of venue for your research publications could hardly be more important. The journal you choose, or the publisher you contract with, determine the readership for your research writings, and – to some extent - determine, in addition, the quality ascribed to your work. Whether or not this is as it should be is a separate issue to that of having to respond (a) to the fact that different journals and publishers have diverse strengths and weaknesses, and (b) that hierarchies of judgement will be applied to your work on publication.

In my field, design history, there are only a handful of dedicated journals. The Journal of Design History is world-leading, while Design Issues and Design and Culture each relate to design cultures in distinctive ways. Beyond this small group, many of the journals in which design historians choose to publish are either design journals, more broadly defined, or journals representing the large number of neighbouring or other fields which connect in various ways with the diverse subject of design and its histories. The former group includes The Design Journal, and more specialised journals such as Interiors, Fashion Theory etc.

See the following on design journals:

Beyond design, there is a wealth of resources available to colleagues wishing to make an informed choice about which journals, or presses to publish with. Some other rankings for specific disciplines that TVAD researchers may be interested in are:

More broadly, a standard resource is the European Reference Index for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (ERIH PLUS). It was produced by the European Science Foundation (ESF) in 2008. It is now maintained by the Norwegian Centre for Research Data. Initially it covered the humanities only, but now it also covers the social sciences.

Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature across the sciences, arts and humanities. It offers ‘CiteScore’, ‘essentially the average citations per document that a title receives over a three-year period’.

The most well-known indicator in the JCR is the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). This provides a ratio of citations to a journal in a given year to the citable items in the prior two years. Journal Citation Reports® (JCR) published by Clarivate Analytics (2017) offers a combination of impact and influence metrics from 2016 Web of Science source data covering more than 11,000 journals from 81 countries.

Eigenfactor was set up in January 2007 by Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West to use ‘recent advances in network analysis to develop novel methods for evaluating the influence of scholarly periodicals, for mapping the structure of academic research, and for helping researchers navigate the scholarly literature.’ It focuses on sciences and social sciences.

Princeton’s Wendy Laura Belcher has worked with some Princeton students on this digest of ‘Reviews of Peer-Reviewed Journals in Humanities and the Social Sciences’ (Princeton 2017) This blog reviews more than 70 journals. Belcher recommends her own book Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (SAGE 2009) and the introduction and chapter one can be downloaded from the SAGE website.

Judgments about journal quality can directly inform perceptions of a researcher’s worth. See David Adams', Publish or Perish v. 5 (2017). Consider also this promotion document from the London School of Economics:
The information is arranged by subject area, including some interdisciplinary topics such as gender studies. The journals regarded as the best are shown for each field. The document also advises on academic publishers with some surprising results: Palgrave Macmillan may not be so closely associated with the group of university presses by everyone who expresses an opinion. Conversely, Bloomsbury Academic is a relatively new addition to the Bloomsbury publisher which may not yet have made an impression on the compilers of such lists.

Prof Grace Lees-Maffei with Dr Veronica Manlow.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

TVAD Visiting Researcher 2016-2017: Afterthoughts

Rebecca Houze, Ph.D
Professor of Art and Design History
Northern Illinois University

As the academic year draws to a close with the usual frenzy of final projects and spring critiques, I have been reflecting on my travels over the past several months as a Visiting Researcher for the TVAD (Theorizing Visual Art and Design) research group, which is hosted by the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Creative Arts. It was enriching this year to meet so many energetic students and faculty in a wide range of disciplines, from contemporary craft to architecture, and from graphic and product design to heritage studies.

In the autumn term, October 2016, I had the opportunity to meet with students in Antje Illner’s contemporary craft seminar. I presented there a short talk on Emilie Bach (1840-1890), founder of the Imperial-Royal School for Art Embroidery in Vienna in 1874. Bach was very active in the Austrian reform of design education in the last part of the nineteenth century, and sought to revive historical needlework patterns from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She advocated for craftsmanship, quality, and creativity in the face of industrialization, and believed that education was the key to cultivating taste. The students in the seminar asked questions that led me to explore Bach’s personal and professional circumstances in more detail in preparation for a paper on this topic. I presented it at the conference, "Design Discourse: Jewish Contributions to Viennese Modernism," at the MAK—Museum of Applied Art in Vienna, organized last fall by Elana Shapira, Design Historian at the University of Applied Art in Vienna.

 "Corner and detached subject in blanket stitch," in Emilie Bach, New Patterns in Old Style 
(Dornach: Thérèse de Dillmont, 1890)

My TVAD lunch talk, “Textiles, Fashion, and Design Reform in Austria-Hungary Before the First World War: Principles of Dress,” presented highlights from my book of the same title (Ashgate, 2015). The book is the result of my research in the museums of applied art and ethnography in Vienna and Budapest over the past fifteen years. It argues that the modern movement in Vienna was energized by an Austrian-Hungarian love of textiles and of dressing up at the end of the nineteenth century, which shaped museology, educational programs, and the history of art, as well as innovations in modern design. The conversation among students and faculty following the talk sparked hypotheses about the role of psychoanalysis and of architecture in that milieu, a reminder that “Vienna 1900” was a dynamic center of intellectual and artistic activity that continues to fascinate us today.

I also had the pleasure of speaking about my more recent book, New Mythologies in Design and Culture: Reading Signs and Symbols in the Visual Landscape (Bloomsbury 2016) with design students in School of Creative Arts Associate Dean Research Steven Adams’ design workshop, and with those who attended my evening Design Talk, as part of the series convened by Julian Lindley. This project took as its point of departure Roland Barthes’ familiar 1957 book, Mythologies, a collection of short, brilliant essays on French popular culture at that time. The essays in New Mythologies examine some our most potent popular symbols today, such as the Nike swoosh, the McDonald’s golden arches sign, and BP’s “Helios” logo, and urge readers to be critical, responsible producers and consumers of our contemporary designed world.

Parody of BP Logo designed by Laurent Hunziker, 2010. 
Winner of Popular Choice in the Greenpeace UK Rebrand BP Competition.

A highlight of my fall visit was meeting faculty and students in UH’s DHeritage program, and hearing the students’ presentations of their research in progress. The day-long symposium was particularly interesting to me as my own research has moved increasingly in the direction of heritage studies in the past several years. My current project looks at relationships between the built environment of world’s fairs and of new national parks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in both Europe and America, where they were designed as powerful expressions of national identity.

As you might imagine, I came back to Chicago from my fall visit to UH consumed with new questions and ideas for future projects! It was thus a privilege to be able to return to the School of Creative Arts again in February 2017.

My visit to campus in the spring term continued conversations that had started the previous fall. It was a distinct pleasure, for example, to attend Grace Lees-Maffei’s lively Graphic Design & Illustration module, and to lead a “New Mythologies” workshop in which groups of students deconstructed familiar icons, such as the Beats headphones logo, the Pringles potato chip trademark, and the international accessibility (wheelchair) symbol. Eva Sopeoglou, with whom I share an interest in the ideas of nineteenth-century German architect and art historian Gottfried Semper, invited me to talk with her First-Year Interior Architecture students and doctoral student colleagues, who, in February, were in the midst of organizing an exhibition on urban revitalization in the historic train depot district of Old Hatfield. I shared with them a part of my current project on historic architecture and open-air museums of cultural heritage in the American southwest.

Hopi House, Grand Canyon, Arizona, designed by Mary Colter, 1904

That same week I attended two fascinating presentations: Artist Femke De Vries’ TVAD talk, “Dictionary Dressings,” and the 2017 Hertfordshire Association of Architects Annual Lecture, “Zaha Hadid Architects: Recent and Past Project,” gloriously illustrated and delivered by architect Jim Heverin. DeVries’ presentation derived from her installation and book of the same title, which is a creative exploration, indeed subversive reading, of textual clothing definitions. If a glove is a “covering of the hand,” for example, then a “glove,” she asserts, might logically be understood as a pocket or a bandage.

Most exciting was the opportunity to participate in UH’s History Department Conference at the seventeenth-century Cumberland Lodge. Staying in the gracious, elegantly appointed country house, which looks out on the green expanse of Windsor Great Park, gave the weekend a dream-like quality. The talks were challenging, the food was delicious, and the company was stimulating and entertaining. Among the most memorable talks I attended were John Styles’ address on the history of fashion, Ceri Houlbrook’s discovery of shoes hidden in the walls of historic homes, Bridget Long’s paper on needlework education for girls in the eighteenth century, and Emma Battell Lowman & Adam J Barker’s talk on writing Canadian history in the “settler colonial present.” Particularly moving was the screening of the powerful film by Tim Slade, The Destruction of Memory, based on the book of the same name by Robert Devan. The film traces the destruction of cultural artifacts and heritage sites as acts of war in several contexts, including in the ongoing war in Syria.

Windsor Great Park

Dorney Court

In addition to presenting and attending academic talks, workshopping papers in progress with members of the TVAD reading group, and making the acquaintance of new colleagues during both my fall and spring term visits, I also had the opportunity to see local sites and landmarks, including the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, the origins of which date to at least the mid fourth century, Letchworth and Welwyn Garden Cities, designed by visionary urban planner Ebenezer Howard in the early twentieth century, and the charming fifteenth-century Dorney Court in Buckinghamshire.

The Spirella Building, previously a factory for the progressive Spirella Corset Company, Letchworth Garden City, 1912

Ebenezer Howard medallion, Welwyn Garden City

Understanding history relies upon intellectual discourse, which often takes place at conferences and symposia—traditional physical meeting places for the exchange of ideas. With our many new technologies for communication today, international travel for such meetings may seem less necessary; however, the ambiguous space between individuals at a video conference simply cannot compare with the spontaneous conversation in the corridor, the lounge, or at the dinner table. I am grateful to the School of Creative Arts for inviting me to participate in its TVAD research group, a generous and inspiring commitment to fostering academic exchange.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Lyndall Phelps: Museology

In 1890, St. Albans public library held a Conversazione, an exhibition of curiosities that became the predecessor to St. Albans museum. With the museum now closed for renovation, artist Lyndall Phelps has joined with its curators to revive some of the original collection at locations around Hertfordshire, as part of a pop-up museum that also features her own work. On exhibition stands designed in collaboration with students at the University of Hertfordshire, Phelps' collection is touring local venues including the St. Albans Cathedral, The Maltings, St. Paul's Church Hall, and St. Julian's Church Hall, with a different selection of exhibits at each location.

Though her aim is partly to make the St. Albans' Museum collection available while the museum is closed, Phelps is also interested in reviving some of the missing objects that were on display in the 1890 exhibition. Working from a list of artefacts on display at the Conversazione, Phelps displays artefacts that remain in the museum's collection alongside objects that she has made and collected to fill gaps left by objects missing from the list. The artefacts are divided into four main categories - fine art, social history, archaeology, and natural history - all categories that were recognised in the original Conversazione collection.

All of the works that Phelps created herself were directly inspired by, but not always identical to, objects on the list. The list contains no images, and the written descriptions are short and sometimes vague. Phelps has taken advantage of this lack of detail by exercising her creativity, adhering to the description in part, but knowingly diverging from the likely form or design that the listed objects would have taken. Where the list describes fern specimens, she has traced the silhouettes of pressed plants in the Cambridge University botanical collection, and screen-printed them in gold. Where the list describes various cloth items, ranging from scarfs to bags, she has decided "to show the fabric rather than the object", and has framed a selection of fabric "representing other cultures", including sari silk and shibori dyed cloth.

Where the list describes "embroidery on perforated card",  Phelps has diverged from the European, floral patterns that would have most likely adorned the original cards, and instead opted to for abstract patterns, and has displayed the cards next to some tribal jewelry, also her own work. This decision arose from her desire to challenge herself. "Ethnographic pieces [like these] involve problem solving" and provide a welcome excuse to learn new craft skills.

Phelps views her role as curator, collector, and designer, as well as artist. "Because of the nature of the objects [on the list] it made more sense to collect them than to make them," she explains. There are a significant number of religious items on the list, and she felt that these might be best represented by collections of contemporary objects that reflect the continuation of established religious practices, including saints medals and reproduction Medieval pilgrim badges.

All of these artefacts are displayed on a stand of Phelps' own design, inspired by a collaboration with students on the Interior Architecture and Design programme at UH. It was particularly important for Phelps that the stand did not resemble a wall from the St. Albans Museum. She has avoided white, and, where possible, used voids and transparent materials so that the audience is encouraged to "see through" the stand to the environment in which it is sited. The display is modular, so that it can be reconfigured to fit different spaces. "I'm used to making work that is physically related to a site or context," she says, and hopes that the stand will feel integrated into each location. "I wanted it to feel like a display [that belongs] in each location, not like we had brought in a piece of the museum."

Where the exhibition features genuine artefacts from the museum collection, she has chosen to display them in archival boxes, "presented as they were stored". Working with the museum's curators she has become fascinated by how they concerned themselves primarily with the "structural quality" of the objects in their care. This approach has taught Phelps "to look at objects in a different way, not just as visual objects, but as structures" that must be supported and protected in very particular ways.

Housing the objects in protective cases and sleeves, Phelps aims to allow audiences an insight into how the objects are protected for storage and transit, illustrating the "hidden, background processes" of museology. The white foam, with recesses cut to match the shape of the objects that they protect, the labels and identification numbers that are normally hidden from view, and the ribbons that secure objects in place, are as important a part of Phelps' display as the artefacts themselves. Prints are unframed, so that the "scrappily cut" edges of the paper are visible, revealing "the honesty of the object". This, feels Phelps, is far more interesting than the "beautified" displays that are presented in the museum. These references carry through to Phelps' own works, which are mounted on card of the same grey colour as the museum's archival boxes.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Last call for 2017 applications for DHeritage!

Last call for 2017 applications for DHeritage, the Professional Doctorate in Heritage at the University of Hertfordshire! DHeritage is a unique professional doctorate for heritage professionals who wish to undertake original research related to their professional concerns, and to contribute knowledge and understanding of heritage, broadly defined. DHeritage is hosted by the Department of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire, with contributions from staff working in History, Philosophy, Education, Creative Arts, Hertfordshire Business School and the University’s flagship Heritage Hub, among others. The doctorate is offered part-time and is delivered through campus-based workshops and online equivalents. The deadline for applications is Monday May 15, and interviews are scheduled for Wednesday 14 June.
Please circulate this opportunity to potential applicants in your network, thank you.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Round Table with Catherine Bertola and Rachel Rich

At a recent UHArts panel discussion, Catherine Bertola was joined in discussion by Rachel Rich, senior lecturer in history at Leeds Becket University. Bertola and Rich are currently benefitting from a Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residency award that has enabled them to share ideas related to the domestic interior. The panel discussion was an opportunity to examine Bertola's past and current work in relation to 19th Century cookbooks and domestic advice manuals, and for staff and students at the University of Hertfordshire to respond with their own questions and observations about Bertola's work.

Much of the discussion focused on the staging of domestic spaces, in their original, domestic use, and when preserved for display, as in the Bronte Parsonage Museum, where Bertola created a series of photographs entitled Residual Hauntings (2011). Bertola is critical the staging of historical spaces, noting the inauthenticity of the objects and decor that are often used in such staging, as well as the artificiality of preserving a space as if frozen in any one particular time. Rich draws parallels with the staging of domestic interiors in the 19th century, and the performance of hospitality that was advised by domestic advice literature of the time. Publications including Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management propagated the idea of the home as an "enterprise" that could be "run for the success of the family unit", and presented an impossible ideal against which Victorian women could measure the success or failure of their domestic activities.

Residual Hauntings, 2011
Rich relates some of Bertola's past works to the ideals advocated in these manuals, including the "act[ing] out of their leisure time as a job". Bertola's Killing Time (2011) shows the artist superimposed into photographs of domestic interiors, sipping from a teacup as if caught between domestic chores. Bertola's work with images of domestic interiors seems not to clearly differentiate between images of labour and leisure. It is interesting to consider Rich's reading of Bertola's work in relation to the writing of Erving Goffman. In his explorations of the “presentation of self in everyday life”, Goffman (1959, p. 69) identifies “backstage” events and locations, in which individuals engage in private activities in preparation for the everyday performance of self. The home is divided into spaces that are, to varying degrees, public or private. Bedrooms and bathrooms are distinctly private, drawing rooms more public, and hallways, Bertola notes, "transition between public space and private space". Rich observes that time spent in, and caring for, those domestic spaces is also divided into public and private time. "Backstage" activities that are the work of the domestic labourer are conducted in private, as a means of preparing for the public presentation of a space.

Killing Time, 2011
The preparation of Bertola's work has often involved private labour, in isolated spaces, leading up to the time of completion when the public are invited into the space. Working on After the Fact (2006), she necessarily worked alone, in an abandoned building, sweeping dust from the floor to recreate patterns from eighteenth-century wallpaper. As she swept, she recorded the sounds of her labour in an audio track that now exists as a public record of her "backstage" activities. For an earlier work, Scratching at the Surface (2001), she spent 2 weeks at the top of scaffolding, isolated from the street below, scratching through layers of paint on the exterior of a building in Newcastle upon Tyne. These private preparations are intentionally similar to the "backstage" labour that takes place in domestic spaces, incorporating sweeping, dusting and cleaning, and consciously isolating, drawing on the "idea of being trapped" that she associates with domestic labour. She develops a sense of ownership during her temporary inhabitation of these spaces, and must relinquish her ownership when the work is complete and the public come swarming into her erstwhile private space.

Scratching at the Surface, 2001

After the Fact, 2006
She has found that there is more privacy in the production of site-specific works than in galleries. Works produced for galleries, such as the work currently on display in the In and Out of Sight exhibition at the University of Hertfordshire, can require her private processes to be transformed into public performances. While creating her current work on the wall of the Art & Design gallery, Bertola was exposed to passing visitors, students and the other artists with whom she shares the exhibition. It is interesting to note that the subject of this work is a photograph of a private domestic space, made public through a photograph that has been published in a readily-available publication.
Bertola and Rich's conversation often turned to the subject of time. Many of Bertola's works have involved reviving old images, revealing surfaces lost to time, or bridging the gaps between periods. Bertola describes her work as "fleeting". Her site-specific work is necessarily temporary. It often has a "fragility", like the dust of After the Fact, that can be swept away. Rich describes her "heartbreak" at imagining how easily Bertola's work can be brushed away. She draws parallels with the domestic labour that can be undone so easily, as clean spaces gather more dirt, and "the entrapment of women" in the neverending cycle of domestic chores (a cycle that is referenced in Bertola's Round and Round, 2016, in which the artist is shown endlessly setting and unsettling a table). It was unusual for her to preserve her images by placing them in a frame, as she has done for Sad Bones (2013-14), giving them a permanence that is not often present in her work.

Preservation, and the effects of time, were foremost in her thoughts when Bertola created Everything and Nothing (2007) at the V&A. In this setting she became very aware of the rituals surrounding the presentation of collected artefacts, and the distinctions made between the labour of those who cared-for those artefacts, and those who cared for the museum's interior. She observed a hierarchy of cleaning, topped by the conservators responsible for cleaning the artefacts, skilled cleaners who are permitted to clean the plinths, and unskilled, "invisible" cleaners with responsibility for the floors. It is the unseen labour of the latter that is most directly referenced in Bertola's work, and that most fascinates Rich.

Everything and Nothing, 2007

Goffman, E. (1959), The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, New York: Anchor Books.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

In and Out of Sight

The latest set of installations in the Gallery brings together the work of four artists: Catherine Bertola, Cath Campbell, Jo Coupe, and Jennifer Douglas. Near the gallery entrance, walls are lined with Douglas’ large canvases of distressed canvases coated with hues of grey floor paint upon which varying marks have been made. In the alcove opposite, Coupe’s sound installation fills the upper gallery space with the sound of the artist’s voice, humming in imitation of the different buzzing of 50hz and 60hz electricity transformers. The hums sound a chorus that fades in and out, becoming, at times, indistinguishable from the background noise of the fans of the workshops. Coupe’s large photographs, that capture the visible effects of electromagnets on a camera, lead us into the main part of the gallery, where Campbell and Bertola share the space.

Campbell has filled the main floor area with a tar-paper shack, inspired by a found photograph of John Steinbeck, taken during his time spent in a migrant camp conducting research for The Grapes of Wrath. The shack houses another sound installation, that plays a dislocated soundtrack for the silent film to be screened in the neighbouring room. The sound is a migrant voice, singing a song that incorporates subtitles from the film, as it narrates a journey that follows the route of dustbowl migrants. Separating the two parts of Campbell’s project, Bertola has painted directly onto the gallery walls, using ash, an image of the interior of a stately home that was lost to fire. Her other works on display are smaller, framed photographs of other grand interiors, also destroyed by flames.

These artists have worked independently in the development of their contributions to the shared exhibition, and did not directly collaborate. Campbell describes making no attempt to force the separate works to “fit together”, and yet, serendipitously, “it comes together”. As the works were installed in the gallery space, connections became apparent, and key themes emerged to unite the separate projects.

The most apparent shared theme is the built environment. All of the artists have, in their own way, engaged with habitation and architecture. Interior surfaces (predominantly floors and walls) are a focus for all four artists, with each artist exploring their chosen surface in a different way. Some works, like those of Coupe and Bertola, consider the recording and depiction of interior surfaces, while others, like those of Douglas and Campbell, refer to the occupation and use of those spaces.

Bertola and Campbell present two very different domestic spaces. Campbell’s modest shack references a drive to carve out habitable space in a hostile environment, far from the comfortable and profusely ornamented stately homes that are pictured in Bertola’s interiors. The side-by-side location of these two artists’ work emphasizes the extreme contrasts between two ways of life, in the pioneering United States and the well-established UK.

Both Bertola and Coupe employ forms of self-reference in their treatment of walls. Drawing from a photograph of a lost interior, Bertola has stenciled the wall with a greyscale imitation of wallpaper, running down to a flat depiction of a dado rail. The gallery floor is extended, as trompe l’oeil, into an image of the floor from Bertola’s source photograph. The painted dado rail and floor converge, evidencing that Bertola’s subject is not an interior itself, but rather, that interior as it was captured at a particular moment, through a particular lens.

Coupe’s photographs, printed on aluminium, depict the white walls of another gallery, photographed at a time when the artist’s camera was affected by the switchable magnets that she was using for another project. The photographed wall texture is visible through the rainbow of colour that is a side-effect of magnetic interference, revealing the similarity between this photographed surface and the white wall on which the print is currently hanging. Framed by the white wall of its current location, the image invites us to consider the contrast between the gallery wall and an identical surface, filtered through the lens of a malfunctioning camera. Thus, the eye and the camera are revealed as two different ways of viewing a surface, each capable of producing a different image of the same subject.

Coupe’s sound installation also engages with the built environment, albeit less directly. Although the sound is itself abstract, Coupe has approached the project as a sculptor, aware of the relationship between sound and space. The humming that emits from her speakers echoes around the surrounding walls, drawing an audible picture of the space. When installing the sound, Coupe was conscious of the competing sounds that exist within the Gallery, from the whir of the workshop fans to the hum of the cafe fridge at the other end of the room. With so many similar sounds, Coupe’s layered recordings become part of the architecture of the building.

Douglas’s attention is focused on another part of the interior: the floor. Her canvases are coated with floor paint, then scratched and marked in imitation of the marks left by people as they move regularly through an interior space. Like Coupe, Douglas also approaches her work as a sculptor. Her practice begins with explorations of materials in relation to form and space. She sees her canvases not as paintings but as “sculptures on a surface”.

These varied approaches to built spaces, including domestic and gallery spaces, unite these artists in unforseen ways. Attention to inhabited space is just one of many ways in which the various works converge and connect, and over a series of blog posts I will be exploring these convergences in more detail, prompted by conversations and responses from invited guests. You can read blog posts about the individual artists, and the dialogue surrounding this show, here:

Thursday, 23 March 2017

DHeritage student successes at History Department Annual Conference

The DHeritage Programme at the University of Hertfordshire is now in its third year, with three cohorts of part-time students working in heritage roles professionally and working, too, on new research into heritage-related issues for their professional doctorates. Campus-based DHeritage students meets for four or five bespoke heritage workshops during each academic year, and in addition they are encourage to attend three residential programmes: the Spring and Summer Schools hosted by the Doctoral College's Researcher Development Programme, and the annual History Department conference held each year in February at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. This year, DHeritage was very well represented at the conference and what follows gives a flavour of the proceedings.

Dorney Court at dusk, February 2017.
We began with a pre-conference tour of Dorney Court, kindly organised by third-year DHeritage student Helen Casey. Dorney Court is one of England's finest Tudor manor houses and remains in private ownership. Our tour guide explained the layers of history and material culture contained within this extraordinary family home and the problems of upkeep. The tour offered a special glimpse into an often hidden world and a life very different to that of most of us.

The academic sessions began with Prof John Styles' talk ‘Fashion to a Timetable: The Origins of the Modern Fashion System’. Prof Styles opened by noting that writing on fashion has proliferated as a result of Berg’s (now Bloomsbury's) publishing activity, and that much of this writing has focussed on identity. He traced this intellectual tendency back to the influence of Stephen Greenblatt’s book Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (1980). Identity is not the only lens through which to view fashion, however. Another way to think about the history of dress and textiles is as indicative of fashionable change based on innovation and trade in textiles. Fashionable change in western dress of the early modern period is perceived as being in contrast to a sense of staticity in the rest of the world. The amount of choice allowed even to poorer women is indicated by, for example, the c. 1000 printed cottons in the Foundling Hospital collection for the years 1758-9 alone. There were annual changes in woven silks in Lyon, c. 1700 and annualised fashion made timing crucial for sales success. In 1681, the directors of the East India Company were aware that European women would prefer to buy and wear inferior silks than last year’s silk, while making a single silk could take more than four months.

The annualised fashion cycle arose in the 17th century for three reasons:
  1. Mercantilism - Colbert promoted French manufacturing in three ways, including the removal of tax barriers, and capturing foreign markets with monopolies with the intention that Lyon would supplement Italy as the major fashion centre.
  2. Court Dress - Louis XIV's ceremonial approach to dress involved a court dress code, rituals such as the levee and the couchee, and an insistence that members of the court bought French goods. Staff who kept the King's wardrobe were interested in fashionable change because they sold the king's old clothes for personal profit.
  3. Magazines and the fashion press - It was expensive to print images, although they were the best medium for the dissemination of fashion.
Next, Dr Ceri Houlbrook presented her fascinating project 'Concealed Revealed: Material Objects Hidden in Walls':
A hidden shoe up a chimney breast. A mummified cat in the roof space. A child’s cap in a wall cavity. A horse skull under the floorboards. These are just some of the secret objects people have discovered when renovating their homes – undoubtedly quite surprising finds considering the odd (indeed, sometimes quite disturbing) nature of the objects, coupled with their unusual locations.
Read more about Ceri's research in her project blog: 

Saturday morning began with two presentations, Emma Battell Lowman & Adam J Barker's 'Writing History in the Settler Colonial Present' and Paul Lynch, ‘Behind the Curtain: A Glimpse of Life in East Berlin.' Paul's talk ranged from details of the complex security of the Berlin Wall, to amazing archive of photographs taken by the Stasi so that after searching people's homes, they could put the things back in the same places and erase any evidence of their searches. Photographs in this archive include a Western coffee maker, which was at once grounds for suspicion and a source of refreshment, a US serviceman’s coat, posters of the pop star Madonna, and an unmade bed. Lynch also discussed the Oscar-winning 2006 film The Lives of Others, writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's story of Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler. 

The presentations continued with Simon Langsdale's 'St Albans is dying in a blaze': Bribery, Corruption, Theft and Embezzlement in a Hertfordshire Market Town 1835 - c.1853' and Bridget Long's, 'London Asylum for Girls (Asylum for Orphans and other Deserted Girls of the Poor) and their needlework training in the second half of the eighteenth century.' Long began with the observation that the weaver could weave thread faster than the spinner could spin. Spinning was therefore the biggest occupation for women in early modern England, occupying 1.5 million women. Impoverished girls taken in by the Foundling Hospital were taught to spin, while their male counterparts were sent off to the Navy. Economic historians have had difficulty quantifying the amount that spinners spun, and we don’t know how well they were paid. Trimmer, writing on the 'oeconomy of charity' had a school of industry in which industry meant spinning.

The Spinstress, 1782-6, by George Romney, of Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton, Lady Nelson

Saturday afternoon saw two DHeritage sessions punctuated by Dr Friedrich (Rudi) Newman's talk '"Hoy, Hoy, Where are you coming to?" – The Great Thames Disasters', in which he shared research which forms a chapter of his new book and made the audience concerned about the safety of their own excursions on the water!  

Memorial card for the Princess Alice which sank near Woolwich, September 3rd, 1878

Four DHeritage students presented their doctoral research in the final panel of the day: first years Sarah Buckingham and Janine Marriott, second year student Charlotte Reynolds, and Helen Casey, who is in her third part-time year of study.  

DHeritage students (L-R) Charlotte Reynolds, Helen Casey, Janine Marriott and Sarah Buckingham
In her presentation, 'Public Engagement with and attitudes to sites of memorial, death and remembrance. A toolkit for Public Engagement' Janine Marriott explained how sites of burial, memorialisation and remembrance have long been associated with learning and public engagement, from the Victorian Garden Cemetery and its ‘improving influence’ through to modern day visits to battlefields for enthusiasts, or school trips to Auschwitz for study of world history. Although increasingly popular and acceptable heritage destinations, such sites are not always included when research is undertaken or studies are published in the heritage field. These sites are not traditional heritage venues like stately homes, museums, galleries or archives but often comprise elements of these and heritage models can be partially applied to them. Increasingly sites of remembrance such as cemeteries, battlefields, prisons, former concentration camps, or even places where an event like the September 11th attacks occurred, are becoming firmly established as part of the heritage landscape.

Janine's study of a range of memorialisation sites seeks to gather together the different ways that people learn and experience these sites and how they interact with what can be extremely challenging and provoking places. Such places are often labelled ‘Dark Tourism’ or ‘challenging history’ because death is a major theme and is regarded as taboo. Among specific heritage communities there is, therefore, a growing array of experience and learning, but no pooled body of knowledge. Janine will explore a number of case studies, and produce resources and research that can be used to advise and support such venues when engaging the public.

Sarah Buckingham asked 'How might the major crisis for heritage in Syria prompt a reconsideration of both our principles and practical approaches for major interventions to rehabilitate heritage sites in response to war, natural disaster or following extensive abandonment or dereliction?' The question is posed with particular reference to the involvement of traditional trades and crafts in rehabilitation works, and how that might affect concepts of authenticity and integrity. The debate prompted by the destruction of major monuments and world heritage sites in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East by the “Islamic State” or as a by-product of conflict has the potential to prompt a significant reconsideration of contemporary approaches to heritage and its conservation, raising questions as it does particularly about the concept of 'authenticity', and how that influences its treatment. Questions of whether to reconstruct destroyed or partially destroyed sites rest heavily on the issue of authenticity – that is, it is implied, the importance of largely or wholly original fabric in something like its original disposition. Where sites have been blow up and cleared by bulldozer, the argument goes, authenticity can lie only in the fragmented remains. Many historic buildings and places, including key archaeological sites in Syria, have often been the subject of considerable interventions both historically and in the more recent past and the apparent authenticity may be in part illusory – this is not always factored into this argument.

Helen Casey's research explored 'Digital decisions – lessons from the recent past about using the technology of the future'. Around 2000, Helen told us, heritage writers made predictions, positive and negative, about the digital future. Some argued that heritage would be democratised through access to all. Others despaired that we are creating a digital black hole into which all of our data will disappear. Gordon Reid's article 'The Digitisation of Heritage Material' (2000) is apposite here. Writers compare the advent of the internet with that of the printing press. Helen reviewed the ideas of Peter Haddad, director of the technical service branch of the national library of Australia (2001), Ross Parry's 'Recoding the Museum: Digital Heritage and the Technologies of Change' (2007) and Dr Ruth Taylor of the National Trust, writing in Alison Hems and Marion R. Blockley's edited collection Heritage Interpretation (2006). Helen has a raft of questions about digitisation: Have people cooperated or worked in their own silos? What has ended up online – democratisation or black hole? What about interpretation, what information surrounds the digital objects? Are virtual visitors the same as real ones when museums still need footfall. Factors determining digitisation include cost, time, expertise, fear of obsolescence, etc. She plans a series of semi-structured interviews with heritage professionals and her method will blend grounded theory with narrative analysis, and policy analysis.

This panel closed with a presentation by Professor Rebecca Houze, TVAD Research Group Visiting Researcher for 2016-17. Prof Houze shared her research into the US National Parks Service. This project examines the European origins of the US National Park Service Rustic buildings within a broader context of industrialization and travel, looking specifically at the transatlantic relationship between Europe and North America that developed in the nineteenth century. It takes as its model and point of departure art critic Rosalind Krauss’s influential 1979 essay, 'Sculpture in the Expanded Field,' which seeks to understand Earthworks, such as the large-scale environmental projects by Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and others during that period, as a new form of sculpture. Likewise we may think of the lodges, camps, train depots, trails, roads, gateway entrances, and other structures in the United States National Park Service Rustic Style, built between the period of the turn-of-the century lodges and the modernizing upgrades of the Mission 66 program after World War II, collectively as an 'open air museum.' The key characteristics of the open air museum are its self-conscious situation and dramatic presentation in the landscape in the form of architecture and staging of transportation routes; its deliberate juxtaposition of primitive with civilized, above all, through the evoking of a lost or disappearing indigenous past, signified by native flora, fauna, and peoples; and in the US context, its didactic, mythologized narrative of American national identity by constructing and dramatizing the landscape as antiquity and place of origin.

Prof Rebecca Houze discussing the visual presentation of the US National Parks

The project identifies common structural features of the open-air museum, particularly in its manifestation as National Park in the United States. It begins with a meditation on lodges and camps as places to stay within the parks, and their broader relationship to other dwelling types, including the log cabin, rural farmhouse, and tent. The best-known rustic lodges were developed after the prominence of grand resort hotels in the last part of the nineteenth century, many of which were modelled on aristocratic Victorian prototypes. The early twentieth-century examples, by contrast, incorporated native building materials, and forms appropriate to the cultural and climatic traditions of the regions that they represented. The lodges of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Mt. Rainier, and the Grand Canyon explore a new American architecture with roots in the Shingle and Stick Styles, as well as the British Arts and Crafts tradition. These modes are related both to a nostalgia for the log cabin, associated with the self-sufficiency of the pioneer against hostile nature, as well as with the moral and intellectual achievements in American political life, as in the case of President Abraham Lincoln’s own humble beginnings in his childhood log cabin. While connected to the log cabin on the American side of the Atlantic, the lodges also draw upon romantic European perceptions of the wooden farmhouse, and in particular the Scandinavian and Alpine chalet, which had been popularized as a charming, fanciful form of building in both Europe and North America for much of the nineteenth century. This association, easily seen in the many treatises on landscape architecture and domestic dwellings published during that period by Andrew Jackson Downing and Henry Hubbard, is complicated by the fact of European immigrant carpenters who were employed to construct and furnish the new lodges in the park, suggesting possibly closer connections between the European and American structures. Much less is known about the workers themselves than the architects who designed and concession companies who financed these buildings.

The day ended with a screening of Tim Slade's powerful film The Destruction of Memory (2016), introduced by Sarah Buckingham, who also chaired a group discussion afterwards. The film includes interviews with the Director-General of UNESCO, the Prosecutor of the ICC, and international experts across various disciplines. The following group discussion centred on what is worth saving, hierarchies of value, and authenticity and inauthenticity in reconstruction processes.

Robert Bevan in The Destruction of Heritage, dir. Tim Slade
On Sunday morning some members of the group attended services at the Royal Chapel in the grounds of nearby Royal Lodge while others participated in a practical workshop on writing and publishing academic articles followed by a postgraduate student talk on completing and submitting your thesis. In the final session we played the 'impact game' which encouraged us to think about new ways to engage different audiences with our research. 

DHeritage staff and students closed the weekend with a short walk around the Cow Pond, and looked ahead to next year. The History Department conference this year saw a wealth of information shared about material culture, not only in the papers presented by DHeritage students and by Prof Rebecca Houze for TVAD, but also by the members of the History Dept. who are not directly involved with the DHeritage Programme. The material turn is apparently in full effect at the University of Hertfordshire!