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


ICHG Conference, London, 5th – 10th July

Today’s post is by Carolyn Gibbeson, ICCHS PhD researcher

ICHG Conference 2015

I was invited to participate in the the Asylum Geographies session at the International Conference for Historical Geographers held in London last week at the Royal Geographical Society. The two sessions, which spread across the whole of Thursday morning, were organised by Chris Philo and Cheryl McGeachen (both Glasgow University) and sought to highlight and explore the small group of researchers who investigate asylum spaces and geographies, to look at the wider societal roles and to explore the rise in the geographies of asylums.

The first session contained four papers from Lauren Farquharson (University of Glasgow) looking at The Scottish Poor Law of Lunacy, Caroline Bressey (UCL) examining geographies of the cosmopolitan asylum, Cheryl McGeachen (Glasgow) looking at psychiatric art therapy and finally Sarah Phelan (Glasgow) who spoke about Thomas Ferguson Rodger, the first Professor of Psychological Medicine at the University of Glasgow.  All four were fascinating papers looking at the past and present lives of people within the asylums and the asylums themselves. Caroline’s paper on the story of Caroline Brogdan who, when detained at the City of London asylum was living as a man was particularly fascinating and reveals the amazing stories that asylum archives contain, waiting to be explored and discovered.

Carolyn Gibbeson

My paper Memories, monuments and mansions: the multiple lives of former historic asylums started the second session. This drew on my current PhD research looking at the reuse of former asylum sites and concentrated particularly on place attachment/ place stigma to explore how different groups of people connected to these sites feel about them and portray them through their engagement with the reuse process. It argued that the current literature on place attachment (and place stigma) focuses less on negative places and different types of attachment and that these are areas that my research highlights. The sessions that followed mine were Nicole Baur (Exeter University) looking at the interplay between planned and non-planned space within the Devon County Asylum, a paper entitled Madhouse: or an investigation into “the regions below” by Chris Philo (presented by Cheryl McGeachen as Chris was in Canada) and Ebba Hogstrom who highlighted how the past, present and future exists in the new House of Psychiatry in Uppsala, Sweden.

All the papers presented provided a detailed and fascinating look into many different aspects of one particular building type and the research being done in this area. The links between past, present and future were really clear to see, as well as the continued discussions about how we present this work, given its often conflicting, challenging and difficult nature. I came away with renewed vigour and interest in my own work, as well as an interest in all the work presented in the sessions and some ideas for possible future research and publications should the PhD research time allow! It was a pleasure to be a part of the sessions at the conference and to be engaged in the continued discussions about these often forgotten places.

ICCHS Postgraduate Research Conference: 16 June 2015

ICCHS_RPG_conference_16Jun15_pic1_Fotor_CollageLast week postgraduate researchers had the opportunity to present papers on their work at the annual ICCHS PGR conference. This year’s conference was split into three sessions, with themes of ‘Heritage in Action’, ‘Representation & Interpretation’ and ‘Organisational Structures and Practices’.

The first session, ‘Heritage in Action’, saw Carolyn Gibbeson presenting a paper entitled ‘Haunted Hospitals? Examining the redevelopment of historic former asylums’. Carolyn’s talk was fascinating, exploring factors involved in the re-use of these sites through data from three case studies. Brian Moss then presented his paper, ‘Help or Hindrance? Engaging with outdoor cultural heritage through smartphone based mobile digital interpretations’. Brian’s research looks at the use of MDI’s (Mobile Digital Interpretations) in relation to cultural heritage sites. The final paper of this session was given by Niki Black, whose paper, ‘Festivals and Heritage: Contributions to a Sustainable Future?’ considered the heritage connections which enable temporal, spatial and social links to be established and strengthened, and how these contribute to the social sustainability of their host communities. All in all, a thought provoking session.

The second session of the day, entitled ‘Representation and Interpretation’, was started off with Alistair Robinson’s paper entitled ‘Museums of modern and contemporary art in an age of ‘globalization’ “. Alistair examined how museums with increasingly stretched resources are nevertheless able to pursue expansionary agendas and enlarge their geopolitical purview, eliciting some interesting questions at the end of the session. Muhammad Ilmam Tharazi then presented on the topic of iconography and figurative representation in Islam. He discussed how museums respond to challenges relating to the display and interpretation of Islamic objects containing images and figurative representations. Finally, Rebecca Farley presented a paper looking at public art in Newcastle-Gateshead, through the use of interpretive frames. Rebecca’s paper discussed her data analysis work and looked in detail at examples of public art in the region and the approaches taken to interpreting these objects.

The final session of the day, ‘Organisational Structures & Practices’ began with a paper by Gemma Cardona-Gomez who discussed archaeological education in Catalonia. Gemma’s paper provided an overview of how archaeological education is approached in Catalonia and how she is going about her doctoral research on this topic. Jennifer Locke then presented a paper entitled ‘Organisational change in art museums and evolving practices of interpretation’. Jennifer’s paper discussed the shift in institutional practices involved in exhibition development and how these changes have influenced the interpretation of art objects. Lastly, Bethany Rex asked the audience to put their ‘theoretical hats’ on and presented a paper on using actor-network theory to understand how co-production is negotiated in the context of the public museum. A lively Q & A session followed this last session, and it was clear that the audience was interested and engaged.

Following the three conference sessions, Kat Lloyd gave a presentation on researchers engaging with communities, and a discussion session with Kat, Rhiannon Mason and Areti Galani followed. Overall the day was engaging and informative and we look forward to next year’s conference.

Guest Post: Niki Black on the African Heritage Challenges Conference

Today’s post is by Niki Black, ICCHS PhD researcher. Niki’s research focuses on investigating the impact which small-scale, rural festivals may have upon the social sustainability of their host communities. More info about Niki’s research can be found here. More info about the conference can be found here.

The African Heritage Challenges Conference, Cambridge

Just back from attending the African Heritage Challenges Conference (15 – 17 May) held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge University. The focus of the conference was on sustainability and development in African heritage with particularly attention being drawn by speakers to the potential contradiction of pairing heritage and development. This linked to another recurring discussion point of the conference, the contestable nature of the definition of heritage. This was interesting in considering if there are differences between the perception of heritage in African countries and between these countries and the West (in other words, the authorised discourse).

In the discussion which followed it was considered that, although on the surface there may appear to be very different issues at stake, many of the underlying considerations regarding heritage are similar (ownership, power, belonging for eg). Although some disagreement occurred between delegates regarding forms of heritage discourse, the majority of speakers appeared to confer on the selection of heritage and its subsequent management as needing to be led by the custodians of the heritage. As to considerations of whether heritage could contribute to sustainability, as long as heritage is seen as a concept of something ‘living’and adaptable, then it can be a positive contributor to sustainable development.

Recent keynote address on cultural heritage and disaster resilient communities

Peter Stone recently gave a keynote address at a preliminary International Expert Meeting in Tokyo on ‘Cultural heritage and disaster resilient communities’. This was part of the preparation for the UN’s ‘3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction’ that Peter also attended as a member of the ICCROM Delegation in Sendai, Japan. Peter’s keynote was on ‘The Blue Shield as an important mechanism for creating and maintaining networks of heritage professionals for Disaster Risk Reduction.

For the full conference: http://www.wcdrr.org/conference

For the expert meeting: https://www.nich-wcdrr2015.com/index_e.html

Inaugural Conference of the 2014 Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership

Brian Moss, PhD Researcher

ICCHS PhD student, Brian Moss, is one of a forty-eight strong cohort across Newcastle University, Durham University and Queen’s University (Belfast) to avail of the newly established Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The Northern Bridge DTP brings together the cutting edge expertise and exceptional resources of the three universities and their partners for the training and development of Arts and Humanities postgraduate researchers.


Hosted by Durham University on the 23rd & 24th of October, the conference provided the first opportunity for all the participants across the various institutions to meet and share ideas on their respective studies. Over the course of the highly enjoyable two days, members participated in subject-specific networking sessions to foster potential collaborations and were made aware of the various opportunities available through the programme. These opportunities included the close relationship with civic, cultural and heritage partner organisations, such as the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, BBC Northern Ireland, Durham Cathedral and the Wordsworth trust; as well as training and career development that will allow students address the challenges of modern Arts and Humanities research. In addition, the conference included a fascinating keynote lecture from Professor Thomas Docherty of Warwick University and a curator-led tour of the exhibition ‘Books for Boys: Heroism, Adventure and Empire at the dawn of the First World War’ in the Palace Green Library.

Further information on the Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Programme and the opportunities available can be found on the programme website: http://www.northernbridge.ac.uk/

Sharing Cultures 2013: 3rd International Conference on Intangible Heritage

Sharing Cultures 2013: the 3rd International Conference on Intangible Heritage took place in Aveiro, Portugal from 24 – 26 July. Attending the conference from ICCHS were PhD researchers Niki Black and Jared Bowers, who both presented papers.

Traditional fishing net weaving - Ecomuseum near Aveiro
Sharing Cultures aimed to push further the discussion on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), under the main topics proposed by the UNESCO Convention. In addition new fields of discussion were included this year, namely management and promotion of ICH, educational matters and musealization. The conference attracted delegates from many countries with a particularly strong presence from Australasia and America; attendance was unfortunately down from European countries which the organisers put down to the impact of the financial recession on research budgets across the continent. It was good to see representatives from African nations too and to be able to share directly discussion on the development of heritage initiatives in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

'Salinas' or salt harvesting lagoons, Aveiro

‘Salinas’ or salt harvesting lagoons, Aveiro

Niki presented a paper entitled ‘Making Connections: Festivals, ICH, people and places’ using data from her on-going doctoral research into small-scale cultural festivals and the social impact on their host communities, based upon case study events in Northumberland. The paper problematized the role and inclusion of ICH in festivals and examined how consistency and innovation, captured in the ICH of festivals, might potentially impact on host communities, through a network of connections made both spatially (sense of place) and temporally (sense of continuity) between the event, its host community and its respective indigenous culture.Jared presented a paper on his work in the Rupununi in Guyana.
In addition to a full and varied programme of presentations and discussions in a beautiful location, the conference organising committee laid on a full day of workshops and visits to heritage sites and projects in the area. The delegates were able to try their hand directly at many of the intangible heritage skills indigenous to that area of Portugal from salt harvesting to pottery and the making of ‘ovos moles’, the traditional cake of the region.