ICCHS and Beamish Museum projects

ICCHS staff are working with colleagues at Beamish Museum to investigate the impact of the museum’s work with older people in two, separate projects.

Beamish Museum is an open air museum which tells the story of life in the north east of England in at different moments in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. They use buildings moved from across the region to create period settings. The museum’s staff have been working with older audiences for several years. Originally the sessions took place in one of the 19th Century ‘Pit Cottages’ but recently moved into ‘Orchard Cottage’ which is a 1940s set out as a 1940s farm-worker’s cottage. The sessions have also evolved from conventional reminiscence sessions, making use of handling collections and the immersive setting, into broader sessions, involving sensory stimuli and meaningful physical activity. The aim of the sessions is to promote mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Active Ageing & Heritage in Adult Learning

This is a European, service evaluation project funded by Erasmus+ to promote innovation in organisational practices in the field of lifelong learning.Erasmus logo

The project’s primary partners are 5 open air museums: Beamish, Den Gamle By (Denmark), Jamtli (Sweden), Maihaugen (Norway) and Skanzen (Hungary). The museums’ staff have agreed a topic and structure for delivering reminiscence sessions for older people at each venue. The plan is that the reminiscence sessions from all the venues will be broadly comparable.

Maihaugen Museum

Erasmus + project team members at Maihaugen Museum (l-r): Areti Galani, Tanya Wills (Beamish Museum) & Michelle Kindleysides (Beamish Museum)

Alongside the 5 museum partner organisations, 3 university partners were invited to develop and implement a methodology for evaluating the perceived impact of these sessions on the participants and any accompanying carers. The 3 universities are Aarhus (Denmark), Linnaeus University (Sweden) and Newcastle University. The Newcastle University team working on the project is being led by Rhiannon Mason, along with Areti Galani and Bruce Davenport (the project researcher).

By delivering comparable sessions across all the museums, and using a consistent methodology for evaluation, the project aims to generate a large body of data and recommendations for good practice in the area of reminiscence and older people.

Methodological investigations in capturing the impact of museum activities on older men with mental illness

A couple of years ago, Beamish Museum’ Active Ageing Officer, Michelle Kindleysides (an ICCHS alumni), worked in collaboration with Emma Biglands an Occupational Therapist based at Derwent Clinic, Mental Health Services for Older People in County Durham to develop workshops for a group of older men living with a range of mental ill health conditions such as depression and dementia. They developed the content of the workshops to match interests, skills, past experiences and the cognitive level of the participants enabling the men to feel they could contribute, make choices and participate to their occupational potential.

The focus of the sessions was on active participation, tapping into lost practical skills, providing meaningful engagement, and socialisation within the historic spaces of the museum and utilising the social-historical objects within the collection. ‘Jobs’ from around the museum formed the key activities in the sessions, which gave the men an opportunity to contribute to the visitor experience at large.

Anecdotal findings from the pilot, including the participant’s own remarks and the organisers’ observations, suggested that the set of workshops had a positive impact on the men’s subjective sense of wellbeing. However, evaluation methods using questionnaires proved to be intrusive and, potentially, detrimental to the outcomes of the session. So Michelle asked if we would like to get involved in trying to find different ways of evaluating the outcomes of the session.

Areti Galani is leading the Newcastle University project team with Bruce Davenport as the project researcher. The project is exploring possible evaluation methods, so Areti and Bruce worked with Michelle and Emma to develop a set of evaluation techniques that might provide insight into the impact of the workshops whilst remaining unobtrusive during the session.

Orchard Cottage

Planting bulbs in the raised bed outside Orchard Cottage during one of the Men’s Group Sessions

The project has been jointly funded by Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Institute for Social Renewal.

Both projects are ongoing. For further information, please contact Bruce Davenport: bruce.davenport@newcastle.ac.uk



Rhiannon Mason at the Museums Association Conference

Key questions about the role of museums on migration from Rhiannon Mason - image credit Kat Lloyd

Key questions about the role of museums on migration from Rhiannon Mason – image credit Kat Lloyd

Rhiannon Mason recently spoke at the Museums Association conference on the topic of migration in museums – and how the sector can ‘do migration differently’. In the session, held in Birmingham last week, Mason spoke alongside Sophie Henderson, director of the Migration Museum project, and Avaes Mohammed, project leader at British Future. The full story can be found on the Museums Association website: http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/news/09112015-museums-urged-to-do-migration-differently

Doctoral Training Opportunity for Arts and Cultures Researchers – Publication Skills

PGR Innovation Fund project hosted by the School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

Printing Guttenberg style
Printing Guttenberg style

Theme: Publication Skills Workshop – Journals

Date: 1 December 2015, 10.00am – 5.00pm

Venue: Newcastle Mining Institute, Westgate Road, Newcastle City Centre

We are all aware of the increasing need for doctoral researchers to make their work more visible as they develop their scholarly career. A strong record of publications in peer-reviewed journals is essential for the academic job opportunities that many of us will be applying for in the coming years, and is increasingly important for creative practitioners. Yet there is a recognition that many postgraduate researchers feel that the process of getting their work published in an academic journal is perplexing and beyond their reach. This workshop will provide participants with ample opportunity to ask questions of editors and Early Career Researchers in a spirit of trust, and to explore ‘inside’ perspectives on publishing in an informal environment.

The workshop covers topics including: understanding the peer-review process; exploring alternative avenues for the dissemination of research; what being an editor can teach you about publishing your own work and how to approach editors with your ideas for papers. Participants will hear from early career researchers (ECRs) who have already published their doctoral research and from colleagues with experience of editing ‘traditional’ and online journals in our fields.

Programme speakers include:

–      Dr. Kate Hill (Principle Lecturer in the School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln, co-editor of the Museum Histories Journal and former Managing Editor at Museum and Society)

–      Dr. Louise Grisoni (Associate Dean Research and Knowledge Exchange in Oxford Brookes Business School, member of the Editorial Board for Organizational Aesthetics

–    Barbara Dougan (Artist, Curator and Visual Arts Consultant, Editor of engage Journal, the International Journal of Visual Art and Gallery Education)

–      Dr. Ealasaid Munro (Research Associate, University of Glasgow Centre for Cultural Policy Research)

–      Dr. Sarah di Nardi (Research Associate, Durham University Department of Geography)

–      Anthony Schrag (Third Year PhD student with focus on Socially Engaged Art Practice and Conflict, Newcastle University, Department of Fine Art)

Please note that this workshop specifically aims at doctoral students whose research addresses topics related to the broad area of heritage, museum and gallery studies, cultural policy, socially engaged creative arts practice and cognate disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary PhD research that bridges the above fields.

There are limited spaces available, therefore preference will be given to participants whose research addresses these areas. If you would like to attend, please fill in the registration form (copy and paste below is fine) and email to: b.rex@ncl.ac.uk before Wednesday 18th November. These workshops are open to second and third year doctoral students only.



Academic school:

Research Area/Thesis Title:

Part of the programme for the day includes a panel discussion, featuring colleagues with editorial experience. Please submit a question for the panel, based on the theme of publishing in academic journals (approaches, challenges, top tips and so forth). If your application is successful, please indicate if you would be happy to read it to the panel. You will not be restricted to asking one question (far from it!), however we feel it is useful to have a series of questions to help editors prepare their presentations in response to the prior knowledge of the group.


Newcastle University to establish UNESCO Chair for cultural protection

Newcastle University has been invited by UNESCO to join its prestigious universities network and establish the first ever UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace.

New worldwide partnerships

Through the accolade – awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) with the full support of the UK National Commission for UNESCO – Newcastle University will deliver training and capacity building activities and build new partnerships worldwide to mitigate the destruction of cultural property during conflict and strengthen the use of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as tools for peace.

Professor Peter Stone OBE, Head of the School of Arts and Cultures at Newcastle University, will be appointed as the UNESCO Chairholder.

One of the UK’s leading specialists in protecting cultural property during armed conflict, Professor Stone has acted as a specialist advisor to the UK government regarding the identification and protection of the cultural heritage in Iraq. He is also Chair of the UK Committee for the Blue Shield; the cultural heritage equivalent of the Red Cross.

For the full press release, please visit:


Open Call for Papers  

Association of Critical Heritage Studies Third Biennial Conference

Montreal, Canada, 6-10th June 2016


Session Title: Changing places, changing people? Critical heritage(s) of diaspora, migration and belonging.

Session Organizers: Dr Susannah Eckersley (Newcastle University, England, UK), Professor Ullrich Kockel, Dr Katherine Lloyd, Professor Máiréad Nic Craith (all Heriot-Watt University, Scotland, UK)

Session Abstract:

Much is being made of the perceived breakdown of the nation state, which was historically configured as a “container” of heritage formations, adopting and perusing local traditions where possible but oppressing them where deemed unsuitable. Migration is seen as eroding the rigid boundaries of this configuration, potentially liberating identities and heritages in the process. This session addresses the relationship between critical heritage and redefinitions of self, other, community and place within the contemporary global reality of movement and flux. Diversity and hybridization are usually regarded positively, displacement, alienation, conflict and normative repression negatively; yet is that necessarily so? Heritage can be seen as a tool for discursively drawing boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, but who is doing the drawing, for what purpose, and what difference does that make? Challenging conventional heritage discourses projecting heritage as sited in place(s), and/or attached to specific groups and communities, we invite contributions exploring the various, sometimes conflicting “imagined communities” of heritage by raising critical issues, such as:

  • How do ideas of place and place attachment shape or limit the positions individuals and groups may adopt? What roles do auto-biography, memory and history play in shaping such ideas?
  • How are scales of identity, place and belonging exhibited or influenced differently by both heritage and politics? What transitional identities and redefinitions of self, community, other and place develop in relation to the heritage practices, mediated memories and “past-presencing” of migrants?
  • How do displaced people negotiate community and place in tension between the “here and now” and the “there and then” that shapes their heritage discourse as much as the elite discourse they are confronted with in everyday life?
  • How are contested heritage practices, discourses and associations of ‘authenticity’ negotiated between communities, and what role do official discourses and practices play in alleviating or aggravating these contestations?
  • As displacement is becoming a common experience, what significance do memorates of “roots and routes” have in various socio-historical or geo-political contexts for shaping journeys of return, (re)discovery, pilgrimage or ‘closure’ that figure in heritage tourism?
  • How compatible are notions of cultural citizenship based on parity of esteem with the coexistence of perhaps conflicting heritage discourses? Why is conceptualising conflict as heritage so difficult?
  • Given the continued reality of multi-facetted place attachment, how may migration and displacement be turned into opportunities for re-placing communities and heritages while avoiding the trap of a shallow essentialism, and sanitization of uncomfortable heritages?
  • What is needed to make critical heritage sustainable in a social, political and economic environment in radical flux (migration, climate change, financial crisis, political upheaval and conflict)? How do we decide which heritages should be sustained, who legitimizes these decisions, and to what extent are such questions about merely replacing one elite with the power of definition by another?

We are keen to examine issues such as these from multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives combining theoretical explorations with applied concerns. Along with papers we encourage creative engagement using other formats with a capacity to capture our subject matter, such as artwork, poetry or performance.

Submissions for papers or posters should be sent with a brief resume (biographical notice and main publications or achievements) of no more than 300 words and an abstract of no more than 600 words presenting the topic or main argument, its relation to the specific session and its interest in the field of critical heritage studies. Paper abstracts should also demonstrate scientific quality through references to a theoretical framework, a methodology or by outlining the contribution to knowledge. It is expected that poster submissions also outline their contribution and state how the poster format will allow a better understanding of the subject treated.

By email to: Susannah Eckersley (susannah.eckersley@ncl.ac.uk) and Ullrich Kockel (u.kockel@hw.ac.uk) by 19th October 2015

And through the open call via https://achs2016.uqam.ca/secure/submitAbstract.php by 1st November 2015, with the session code: OS067 Changing places, changing people? Critical heritage(s) of diaspora, migration and belonging

More information is available on the conference website at: www.achs2016.uqam.ca

Newcastle University announces the creation of Media, Culture, Heritage (MCH)

Newcastle University has merged two of its high performing Research Excellence Framework (REF) units – Media and Cultural Studies (MaCS) and the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies (ICCHS) – to form Media, Culture, Heritage (MCH).

According to Professor Chris Whitehead, head of the new unit, ‘MCH was created following our combined Research Excellence Framework (REF) achievements and recognition of our related research and teaching interests. MCH brings together academic staff and practitioners associated with highly successful research and teaching programmes in Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Journalism, Public Relations, Digital Cultural Communication and Participation, and Museum, Gallery and Heritage Studies, alongside new provision in the area of Film Practice.’

The MCH REF submission highlighted that over 80% of their staff are ‘World Leading’ and ‘Internationally Excellent’ researchers.  Moreover, the dynamic and innovative commitment of connecting leading academic work with relevant contemporary practice also stood out, as MCH research was recognised as having impact within the the media, culture and heritage sectors of global and international significance.

Dr Darren Kelsey, deputy head of MCH, commented that ‘The merger represents MCH’s strong focus on public culture, supported by Newcastle University’s commitment to cultural and civic engagement. This development reflects the desire to undertake socially-relevant research and to provide education and training that maximises graduates’ critical and professional skills. It will also enhance their experiences and understandings of cultural sector contexts in the UK and internationally.’

MCH staff have considerable sector experience and strong links with the media, culture and heritage sectors in the region, nationally and internationally and will continue to work closely with practitioners to develop and deliver the right mix of theory and practice on its courses.

Three public art collections

Today’s post is by Rebecca Farley, ICCHS PhD researcher.

Three public art collections

Over the summer months I’ve been out and about beyond my usual Newcastle-Gateshead research base, visiting a selection of UK towns and cities that positively describe themselves as holding public art collections – in the ‘art in the public realm’ sense rather than museum or gallery based artworks.

In the UK the word ‘collection’ is not one that has been commonly connected with public art practice. (Indeed there is quite strong resistance towards this term from some UK public art professionals I have spoken to.) The term is more accepted in the USA however, where cities both large and small, often describe and promote their public artworks as city or civic collections. In recent years a small number of UK towns and cities are also beginning to use the ‘public art collection’ label. Three of these places, Milton Keynes, Folkestone and Cardiff, were selected as sites for my own PhD research visits. The purpose of these was twofold: to explore these public art collections as they might be experienced on the ground; and to meet with some of the curators and local authority officers who have responsibility for their commissioning, presentation and ongoing management or care.

As you might imagine, these visits to three completely different places – a 1960s ‘new town’, a culturally regenerating south coast harbor town, and the capital city of Wales’ ­– uncovered a diverse picture of public art collection history, practice and approach.

In Milton Keynes the collection encompasses some 220 individual artworks including outdoor sculpture and interior artworks commissioned for some of its key public and cultural buildings. Situated both in Central MK and the wider borough these artworks date from the various different phases of the physical development of Milton Keynes, from the mid 1960s to the present day. Despite their very mixed pattern of private and public ownership and current custodianship, all are considered as part of the ‘MK collection’.

In Folkestone the public art collection (‘Folkestone Artworks’) is much smaller and younger. Linked to the commissioning for the Folkestone Triennial twenty-seven artworks have been permanently sited and ‘collected’ for the town since 2008. Rather than coming under a local authority remit (as in Milton Keynes and Cardiff) here the public art collection is developed and managed by an independent local charity, The Creative Foundation.

Cardiff’s public art collection is by far the oldest of the three I visited. Managed by the council’s planning department and based on its recently compiled Public Art Register this collection maps the development of public art in the city – its statues, monuments, memorials and art in architecture commissioning – over a 150-year timespan. This includes over 200 artworks sited in Cardiff city centre, the historic Civic quarter and around Cardiff Bay.

For individual reports on my encounters with these three public art collections visit my PhD research blog at: rebeccafarley.wordpress.com

Andre Wallace (1984) The Whisper, Milton Keynes Collection.

Andre Wallace (1984) The Whisper, Milton Keynes Collection.

Gordon Young (2013) MK Rose, Milton Keynes Collection.

Gordon Young (2013) MK Rose, Milton Keynes Collection.

Sarah Staton (2014) Steve, Folkestone Artworks.

Sarah Staton (2014) Steve, Folkestone Artworks.

Nathan Coley (2008) Heaven Is A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens, Folkestone Artworks.

Nathan Coley (2008) Heaven Is A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens, Folkestone Artworks.

Albert Hodge (1912) Mining, Cardiff Public Art Collection

Albert Hodge (1912) Mining, Cardiff Public Art Collection

Jean-Bernard Metals (2009) Alliance, Cardiff Public Art Collection.

Jean-Bernard Metals (2009) Alliance, Cardiff Public Art Collection.