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.

New Seminar: Walkthrough Research, Wednesday 25 February

We have an exciting seminar coming up on 25th February from 1 – 2pm.

Jakob Bak is coming to ICCHS from Denmark to speak to us about ‘walkthrough research’ techniques. More information below.

Jakob has offered to bring some of the specially designed glasses along, and will run a hands-on session after the seminar. Please let me know if you are interested in taking part in this extra session by sending an email to j.l.locke@newcastle.ac.uk

Hope to see you there.

Jakob Bak, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID)


Wednesday 25th February 1 – 2pm

Walkthrough Research

Throughout the European research project “MeLa* – Museums in an Age of Migration” Chris Whitehead (ICCHS) and Jakob Bak from Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) have been developing a new method for gathering experiential accounts from museum visitors that combine video-based observational techniques with prompted reflection and guided interviewing. Applying the method in both fine arts and social history settings, CIID and ICCHS have through the project examined the possibilities and limitations of such methodology. At this lecture, Jakob will give an introduction to how this can be used in everyday cultural research practice.

Jakob Bak is Research Manager at CIID, coordinating the team’s efforts across European research projects and other activities. With a M.Sc.Eng in Design & Innovation from the Danish Technical University (DTU) as well as involvement in Copenhagen based Art and Technology collective Science Friction, Jakob’s interests spans science studies, haptics, design theory, critical making, sound synthesis and artistic practice. When out of the office Jakob conducts workshops on synthesis, design or prototyping, makes electronic music or generally tries to get a better understanding of interactions between people and systems.

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/

Rock Art CARE Project Dumfries and Galloway Fieldwork


The project team at High Banks; left to right, P. Warke, M. Giesen, P. Lewis and A. Mazel

The Heritage and Science: Working Together in the CARE of Rock Art project completed its second data collection exercise in mid-July. The team included Dr Aron Mazel, Dr Myra Giesen and Peter Lewis from Newcastle University and Dr Patricia Warke from Queen’s University Belfast.

The team visited several rock art sites in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland to gather further scientific data on the contributing factors to rock art decay. Soil samples were taken and an XRF machine used to analyse the rock composition. These will be analysed at Queen’s University Belfast. The findings, along with the written recordings of risk factors at the panels, will help to further shape the tool kit and management guide that aim to help protect rock art.


This shield motif at High Banks is stunning and probably unique in the whole of the UK, yet there are no protective measures in place. Cattle are clearly trampling over the panel with other potential damage from such as significant moss growth

Nearly thirty panels were analysed in Dumfries and Galloway with most being in a poor condition. Some of the risks identified to these panels were significant, including cattle roaming over the rocks and even cattle feeders placed on or adjacent to panels. None of the team had been to the majority of the panels and it was felt that many lessons were learnt here, even above what the team expected before starting.

The next fieldwork carried out by the team will be in Ireland in early September.

From Thailand to the Netherlands

For the last four years Peter Davis has been working with colleagues in the Princess Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Bangkok, to explore ways of cataloguing, safeguarding and transmitting intangible cultural heritage (ICH). Carried out as part of a training programme for curators and heritage professionals in the Lower Mekong sub-region this research and teaching programme has explored questions about the role of the museums in relation to sustaining ICH in countries that have ratified UNESCO’s ICH Convention. The Netherlands has recently become a signatory to the Convention, a situation now causing huge interest in the country amongst museum professionals and Peter travelled to Amsterdam in April to recount his experiences in Thailand and elsewhere to a meeting at the Reinwardt Academie.

Peter Davis with colleagues in Bangkok

Peter Davis with colleagues in Bangkok

Some 40 people attended, including staff and MA students of the Reinwardt (the Netherlands’ only provider of museum and heritage training); other guests included  Albert van der Zeijden (the Vice-president of VIE, the Dutch Intangible Heritage Centre), Ms. Riet de Leeuw (Senior Policy Adviser of the Dutch Ministry of Culture & Education), Marc Wingens, director of Gelders Erfgoed (a provincial Heritage foundation with ICH interests), Femie Willems of the Foundation for Cultural Participation and Steph Scholten (Director of Heritage Collections of the University of Amsterdam). Peter’s presentation was followed by a fascinating discussion about the ways forward for ICH safeguarding in the Netherlands, a country with a diverse ethnicity that demonstrates all manner of intangible heritages. It is evident that discussions and approaches are still very much in their early stages and already somewhat controversial.