Researching museums during lockdown

By Matthew Jones, PhD Student at Sussex University.

For many people lockdown necessitated a reimagining of how to complete even the most everyday tasks. For me, researching museums it was no different. In the months prior to lockdown I was planning and carrying out fieldwork that was meant to continue into summer of this year. This consisted of going to various museums across the country, analysing their displays and interviewing museum professionals. As lockdown was enacted museums closed, staff furloughed, and traveling was no longer safe. My fieldwork was disrupted to say the least. The interviews and trips I had spent months planning fell through. I no longer could go see displays and exhibits meaning I had to rely on the blurry photographs I had taken on previous visits. Above all with staff being furloughed there was no one able to reply to emails. The out of office message became the theme of my summer as I tried to salvage my research.

My first thoughts, however, when lockdown hit was not to do with my research but that feeling of anxiety that many shared about the state of the world. Research became second fiddle to checking morbid graphs and listening to politicians fumble around for solutions or outright denial of the severity of the situation. So, I took a break. This allowed me to step back and revaluate how my research was going and most importantly how to continue forward while I no longer had access to the physical object of my study, the museum. One aspect, the interviewing of museum professionals, I rethought quite quickly. I would turn my interview questions into questionnaires that they could do at their own pace. I was conscious that many of the people who I wanted to give me their time to help my research were also reorganising their own lives and trying to adapt to the ‘new normal’.

A typical Western Museum.

The second aspect of my fieldwork, visiting museums and critiquing displays was not possible to salvage. While some museums created online exhibitions or put more effort into creating digital resources it is simply not the same as being in a museum space that has been carefully constructed to be embodied by an audience. That being said, one of the best examples of a museum adapting to this is the International Slavery Museum who, google street view-style, have created a virtual reproduction of their galleries online so that you can digitally walk through them, look at objects and read labels. It is not quite the same as being there, you can ghost-like warp through walls very easily by accident, but it is the best I have seen. Moreover, being unable to access museums physically meant thinking more about them in other ways. I turned my focus to looking at what museums produce: reports, blogs, videos, podcasts and so on. This allowed me to continue understanding the approach of museums to the topics I was interested in and provoked me into thinking about museums as more than a physical manifestation of curatorial intent.

The end of Colston.

Regarding the topic of my research, I was perhaps very lucky that it became a major news story over the summer rivalling the daily doses of pandemic coverage. My research centres on how museums display and exhibit the British slave trade and its legacies, therefore, when Black Lives Matter protestors unceremoniously dumped the statue of the slave trader Colston in Bristol harbour my research gained a new lease of life. It was reinvigorating to see not only decisive action being taken to challenge the ease with which slave traders are monumentalised in public space but also to see the passion with which many people had about confronting the legacies of enslavement. During lockdown my motivation to do research and work towards my thesis had been severely hit. Each day became a drag as my fieldwork turned into a slog and the enforced separation from friends and loved ones continued on. The actions of these protestors reminded why my research matters and that even though doing research was hard, it was still important to do.

Above all then, lockdown forced me to revaluate and rethink how to research a physical thing, the museum, in a time when it was not safe to do so. Some aspects were easily adapted while others could never truly be reformulated for the digital world. The challenge of this was both useful in making me rethink aspects of my research but it was also demoralising for much of the summer as my research slowed down to a snail’s pace. On the other hand, selfishly, the events of Black Lives Matter and the museum sector’s response revitalised my research and opened new terrain for me to look at.

Juggling work, practice and research at the times of Covid-19.

By Mattia Cobianchi, PhD in Music, Goldsmiths University of London, Chase Student Committee Rep

My name is Mattia, and I`m a permanent resident of the UK since 2013, but I`m originally from Italy, and since we Italians were the first in Europe to be hit by the pandemic, I started to worry about the impact of Covid-19 on my friends and family there first, and about myself only a month later. It was a little bit like seeing a catastrophe in slow-motion. You see it coming, you brace for it, still you can`t do anything about it. The first personal hit for me came on the second week of March, when I had to cancel a trip abroad to attend the VIVA of an interesting researcher that works in the field or urban planning and soundscape research. Then, a couple of weeks later, came the second. I am a part time PhD student, but also a part time employee in a large audio company, and I was put on furlough, together with a lot of colleagues, starting from April (I was finally recalled back at work in July).

I`ve been working in the audio sector no-stop since 2004 (oh yes, sorry, I forgot to mention that I`m quite a senior student 😊) and being told to stand down and stop working, was quite a shock. I didn`t know how to do it at the beginning! Even if of course I was aware that I was one of the lucky ones able to keep my job and that I could dedicate more time to research while on furlough, it had been the first time for years that I had to completely stop working. What I ended up doing, although by a fortunate coincidence, was to write some technical articles for a magazine about what I design and research at work – loudspeakers, and that helped me feeling not as isolated from my job.

Figure 1 – A measurement session at work – lasers and speakers, what else could I wish for?

On the academic side, my research is practice based and deals with the issue of improving the urban soundscape through adaptive and dynamic compositions to mask or at least steer away city-dwellers’ attention from annoying noises such as that produced by traffic and construction works.

An exciting part of my research has been attending hands-on workshops and events organized in London both at Goldsmiths University and in other venues with fellow scholars or musicians: this of course has stopped completely and has not been replaced by any online surrogate unfortunately. Total disruption.

A second aspect of the practice that has been instead only partially disrupted, is the chance of spending time outdoor with all the senses alert, especially my hearing, both in the built environment as well as in nature reserves and parks, often bringing along a portable audio recorder for field recording.

Figure 2 – Capturing the sound of pebbles rolling up and down the shore along Hove beach

Once the lockdown was in place (or an edulcorated version of it, since here in the UK it`s been very “permissive”), the daily walk to exercise constituted a useful although limited chance to appreciate how the soundscape of my city, Hove, had changed. New faint sounds, both natural and artificial, started to be audible: sparrows’ calls in the streets, faint ventilation and air conditioning units breathing sounds, car or house alarms ringing from far, far away…

Figure 3 – A woodland patch near my flat has been a regular lockdown escape for a walk

When at home, I started to register to the myriad of webinars that popped out like mushrooms, and to some conferences that had been ported online, hoping to keep myself engaged and active, but found just a few useful or interesting. I realized that it was much harder to focus, the temptation to do something else, in the privacy of my flat and with the webcam off, was high. The ones that I enjoyed the most were the ones where either by nature of the workshop or by personal commitment, I kept the webcam on and tried to focus on the speaker face, as if in trying to establish a personal connection. With a lack of stimuli from a real environment, it`s easy to seek new stimuli while on an online meeting by browsing the web or checking your emails: well, at least for me, it causes both a predictable deficiency of engagement and retention, as well as increased mental fatigue. Human beings are not meant to multitask. Trying comes at a price.

I also noticed a new pattern: while I`m not usually checking social media or emails more than a couple of times per day, the lack of physical interaction with my colleagues at work and fellow students at college, kept me going back over and over again, waiting for signs of life from the outside world… I`ve not yet mastered a strategy to overcome this, but I`m trying to use the Pomodoro technique and check Whatsapp or emails only during breaks. Plus I`ve started to plan in advance at least one online catchup with friends living far away every week, so that I always have a virtual meeting to look forward to.

Tales of Tallinn

By Kate Docking, University of Kent, Chase Student Committee Secretary and Kent Representative

Out of the three Baltic capitals – Vilnius in Lithuania, Tallinn in Estonia, and Riga in Latvia – it is Tallinn that captivated me the most. Don’t get me wrong, I love every Baltic city: I had a really special evening celebrating Latvian Independence Day in Riga in 2017, and a wonderful time spent enjoying snowy Vilnius in 2018. But Tallinn has a special place in my heart. The place looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, with its cobbled medieval streets, old city walls, and stunning architecture. It was quite unlike anywhere I’d been to before (and this is coming from someone who has lived in medieval Canterbury for almost five years of my life). In this post, I’ll talk a bit about what my sister and I got up to on our first day in this breathtakingly beautiful city.

Tallinn City Walls

We started by climbing the Town Hall Tower, which is the main tower in the Old Town. It only cost 3 euros to climb, and 115 steps later we were at the top, standing nervously on a somewhat precarious platform with room for approx. 2 people at once, with an amazing – if somewhat dizzying – view of the square and the streets of Old Town before us. Descending the hazardous, narrow steps on the way back down was an experience, but well worth it for the excellent panorama at the top. Next on our list was the free walking tour of the Old Town. I try to do one of these tours in every city I visit, as it’s a great way of getting acclimatised with the place. We learnt a lot about the history of Tallinn on this tour in a friendly, accessible way with many witty anecdotes provided by the extremely knowledgeable and hardworking guides.

When the tour finished, it was about lunchtime, so we made our way to Lido. This chain of canteen-style restaurants – there are some in Latvia, Riga, and more in Estonia – serves delicious and hearty traditional dishes for a cheap price. After lunch, we walked through the Old Town up to Tompea Hill. This viewing platform offers incredible views of Tallinn and its surroundings, that is, if you can manage to get a place amid the throngs of selfie-stick wielding tourists. We then decided it was time for a beer, so headed to Beer House, a beer hall-style place off the main square in the Old Town. In spite of its inflated prices (and the extremely rowdy stag do from Newcastle who were sitting on the table next to us), Beer House was a good place to sit and soak up the early evening sun. I was beginning to feel – dare I say it (as someone who pretty much never relaxes) – relaxed!

At the top of Tompea Hill

As the night fully descended upon us, more watering holes were frequented. We first went to Noku, an obscure bar where intellectuals met covertly during the socialist era, and the place retains a strong sense of secrecy. There’s no sign advertising the entrance, so you have to venture down Pikk 5, one of the streets off the Old Town, and look out for a nondescript blue and red door and people gathered outside. The place used to be a member’s only club, but there’s now a code to get in, which you can find quite easily by Googling (it changes regularly). This is one of the few places in Tallinn that we definitely didn’t feel like tourists in. You wouldn’t go here for an extensive drink selection, but you absolutely would go here for a buzzing, student-y atmosphere full of Tallinners.

The ‘secret’ Noku Bar

Anna and I then descended upon Ill Drakoon. This is a medieval themed tavern right off the main square, but ‘medieval themed’ taken to the maximum level: staff are all in character, notably the landlady, who plays a part of an angry innkeeper who is reluctant to feed thirsty and hungry travellers to Tallinn. This certainly led to some interesting interactions when ordering our drinks. Again, it wasn’t the cheapest place in Tallinn, but was (probably) worth it just for the atmosphere.

Enjoying ‘mead’ in Ill Drakoon (my nervous smile indicates that I’d just had a run in with the landlady who sternly reminded me not to take pictures with flash)

We then looked for a place for dinner, and settled on an Indian named Elevant, which was, from memory, delightful. One last stop of the night called before we retired to our accommodation (a lovely, and very cheap, Air B n B); we visited Labor, a bar that is entirely chemistry themed, with shots served in test tubes, drinks concocted according to meticulous chemical formulas (which I’m sure you’d especially appreciate if you knew anything about chemistry, which I don’t), and neon lights everywhere. As we walked back through the medieval streets and past the old city walls to our Air B n B, we both firmly decided that Tallinn was our favourite city in the Baltics.

Making the most of Encounters

by Ellis Spicer, University of Kent, Student Committee Chair and Kent Representative.

The 15th and 16th November will bring about the next Encounters conference, which we as a Committee hope that you are all registered to attend! It is a fantastic opportunity to get the cohort together and facilitate crucial interdisciplinary networks which go on to gain a life of their own.

But if you’re a new CHASE student, how do you make the most of Encounters? It may seem overwhelming, being new and suddenly being in a room with all of these other funded students and wondering what to say. There’s often so many activities, how do you navigate those? And if you’re not a new student, how can you make sure you’re maximising the benefits you can reap from Encounters?

Volunteer to speak!

The time for this in terms of being on the programme may have passed, but talking about your research in the Encounters showcase is a great way to get your research out there, maybe practice a paper you’re working on to a friendly audience or to give insight to your research process as a whole. By presenting at Encounters, the attendees can see what you’re working on and how it overlaps with theirs. It makes for great break discussions as people will come up to you and start chats about your research and ask you insightful questions. But also you can volunteer to speak in the form of asking a question to a speaker, whether it’s a student or a keynote is a fantastic way to engage.

Don’t always think about choosing sessions relevant to your research!

Encounters is all about bringing the cohort together and seeing your research in a different way. So you don’t have to attend sessions because of your research topic, you can attend for interest, curiosity or even just fun with some of the social activities! There is no pressure to choose certain things or even to justify your choices. You may find the most productive conversations come from slightly outside your discipline, geographical area, methodology or chronological period.

Start new conversations and talk to new people!

Not everyone is a natural networker, but this is a crucial skill that Encounters can help you to nurture. Chat to the person sitting next to you, volunteer for sessions your friends might not be going to if that’s what you’re interested in and if you hear a conversation that sounds interesting going along next to you, feel free to join in! CHASE have been doing a Phriend scheme at Encounters since July, so if you’re signed up to that make the most of it. But even informally, everyone is friendly and happy to chat about their research, experiences and general perspectives.
Don’t panic, it will be fine!

The above may seem a little self-explanatory, but at my first Encounters I was worried so much about talking to new people and making a good impression and networking that I think in places I forgot to be myself. Remember why you love your research and are passionate about it, remember everyone is at different stages and works at their own pace. So try to leave the imposter syndrome at the door and enter Encounters a researcher who is passionate about their work, ready to engage with other students, the programme and the CHASE team.

A Day In The Life – Ellis Spicer

by Ellis Spicer, University of Kent, Student Committee Chair and Kent Representative.

Describe a typical working day.

They say the life of a PhD student can get a little unpredictable, but in some ways I’m finding the opposite (unless I have particular plans on a specific day for interviewing, archives etc). In fact I’m sitting in my office writing on a very untypical day, one I’ve dedicated to catching up on admin.

But usually, you’ll find me groaning at my alarm at 7am virtually every morning – I’m one of those disastrous human beings that never wakes up on the first alarm, needing one every five or so minutes until I motivate myself to get out of bed. After a compulsory cup of tea in the morning (I can’t function without one), some breakfast and getting ready for the day, I start my walk to campus. I’m getting a lot better at trekking up the hill that leads to the University of Kent, although I’m sure asthma medication has also been helping on that front.

A lovely autumnal view from our Rutherford College Office at the University of Kent

By the time I’ve made it to the office, I usually need a glug of water and a cup of coffee to get my working day properly started. Admittedly this can be anywhere between 9-10am depending on how long I can ignore my alarm for.

I am excessively proud of my little working space when it’s not a mess.

When I’ve got a coffee by my side and my computer is all loaded up, I like to take a look at my to-do-list. You would be right in thinking that I am one of those people. Love a good list, love a bit of order and if the stationery is also adorable then that is even better! Then I start writing more often than not.

I am a fully-fledged victim of the post-lunch slump so if I’m writing a chapter or a conference paper most of my work will be done before then. I’m often so consumed by the writing process my hands hammer the keyboard until my brain enters ‘shut down mode’, I finish what I planned to do that day or if hunger or the need for caffeine intervenes, whichever one may arrive first.

I try and take a break for lunch, even if I am sitting at my desk. Mostly I’ll scour the news to see if anything interesting is happening or read whichever book I happen to be delving into at that point. Even if I don’t leave my desk, I like the mental break from my work I get from these lunchtimes.

Afternoons massively vary, they can vary between admin tasks, keeping an eye on emails, planning outreach sessions or revising my notes from my Spanish class. Sometimes I feel cooped up and leave campus early, needing some fresh air, and it’s those kind of days where you’ll find me in the gym, a new found hobby I’ve become rather fond of.

Evenings become a chance for some PhD decompression, with a focus on indulging myself – whether it’s leisurely reading, Netflix or social time, and I’m rather protective of them. You’ll never catch me working in the evenings because I don’t feel productive in the slightest during them.

What’s your top productivity tip?

See above – I’m not an evening person, I prefer to work in the mornings. I always think people should work out when they work the best and roll with that, there’s no right answer. Know yourself and know your schedule and even if you’re busy you can make the most of the time you have.

What do you do to unwind?

I read a lot of fiction and watch a fair amount of TV on my protected evenings to escape from the PhD bubble.

What is your favourite way to start the day?

With a vital cup of tea, a decent breakfast and an episode of something lighthearted.

Creating a Student-Led Group for CHASE: A Reflection

Jack Rutherford, PhD Film Studies, Student Committee Representative, University of Essex,

This post will offer a review of the project of the CHASE Diversity group, from its early inception to its current nascent state. Last Autumn, I noted the varied CHASE Networks, such as the Feminist Network and SAVANT, that offered groups for those interested in feminist dialogues, or American visual art and text. However, there was an absence of network or group specifically for disabled students, which I felt could be addressed.

This post will offer an outline of the process that was undertaken to organise the Diversity group and will reflect on the last six months or so; from initial idea to the recent Diversity in Body and Mind workshop at the last CHASE Encounters, held at the University of Kent, Canterbury. In addition, this post will hope to promote discussion and feedback, a point of reference for those interested in the Diversity group, or for those setting up their own network within the CHASE consortium.

The Diversity group came to fruition from a proposal to the CHASE management team, at the University of Sussex. This meant emailing Rob Witts and Steve Colburn, who were very keen to promote a student-led group of this design. Also, I had recently received feedback from CHASE students, in my capacity as Student Committee representative for the University of Essex, with regard the introductory Encounters for CHASE’s 2018/19 intake. It was felt there were moves CHASE could make to be more inclusive and accessible for those with visible and invisible disabilities. I was given a slot to announce the formation of the Diversity in Body and Mind group at the next Encounters at the Barbican, London, in November 2018.

Partially due to getting lost (I still blame Google), and my own stage fright, the announcement was moved to the monthly CHASE Bulletin: this was an extremely useful platform for exposure, and two CHASE students, got back in touch. I had spoken to Effie Makepeace and Kate Meakin during the Barbican Encounters’ breakout sessions, who were keen for such a group and were vocal in support; both would lend their ideas over the coming months, and the Diversity group is as much theirs as my own. In fact, this is something I am keen to do: remove the notion of ‘ownership’ and democratise the group.

Effie and Kate’s feedback, as well as support from Ellis Spicer, Kate Docking and Matthew Jones from the Student Committee, was instrumental in getting over my own limitations to see the group come in to being. The first Diversity roundtable took place on the second day of the recent Encounters conference, at the University of Kent, on 12th and 13th July 2019.

I was initially dismayed at the low attendance to the workshop, but I was held in place by the presence of co-conspirator, Effie, and Steve had come along from the CHASE management team lending his support. We persevered and the talk progressed naturally.

The result was an extremely positive and fruitful discussion regards the purpose and direction of the Diversity group. We now have a plan in place to act in mediation between CHASE and the student cohort; to be fully trained coordinators, acting as a point of reference and guidance for CHASE students between and during Encounters’ conferences. This will take further work, training and engagement on the members of the Diversity group, but CHASE are committed to student development, and are constantly hoping to evolve and stretch the parameters of inclusivity within the consortium.

Reflections on Encounters: Kent 2019

By Ellis Spicer

It was a warm day in Canterbury, summer Encounters are often blessed by the weather, so I’ve been told. And it wasn’t just any Encounters, but CHASE DTP Director Denise Decaires Narain’s final stint in her role.

The programme was as varied as it was interesting, giving massive attention to and focus on the student-led sessions such as ‘Researching distressing topics’, decolonising the curriculum, the Diversity in Body and Mind Group and the Feminist Network to name but a few. But interspersed throughout these specialist break out sessions was an awful lot of fun, frivolity and room for thought, such as cohort building activities in Canterbury City Centre and on campus, mindfulness, art and pets as therapy but also skills based endeavours such as ‘how to shut up and write’ or ‘how to tame your supervisor’. There really was ‘something for everyone’ and for the next few weeks we will be illustrating the wide variety of sessions offered in a series of special posts. If anyone is interested in writing a post about an aspect of Encounters feel free to get in touch via

The key strengths of Encounters this year for me was the commitment from the CHASE organising committee to inclusivity in not just words but in their actions. Outlining the use of the quiet room for feelings of being overwhelmed and needing some reflective time and not to work was greatly welcomed by the cohort at large. The previous Encounters at the Barbican had led to some people choosing to work in the silent spaces, and it was great to see a separate room commandeered for this reason. Furthermore, a statement from Denise as CHASE Director pledged commitment to inclusivity in all forms not just in Encounters but as a central point of the CHASE ethos. We as a committee would like to echo her heartfelt sentiments and convey how our blog aims to showcase the diverse range of life experience, backgrounds and preferences within CHASE.

The emphasis on student works in progress and research at the start of each day was truly impressive and allowed us a small insight into other work going on within CHASE. Whilst we have our own fields and expertise, it is fascinating to see the passion with which other students talk about their work. We would encourage any students who haven’t done so yet to volunteer to talk about your research in the next Encounters. Sharing research in these collaborative and interdisciplinary spaces couldn’t be more important, and potentially enables us to formulate contacts away from our fields based on other lines of similarity that unites our individual research.

On a final note, we as a Committee would like to record our thanks to the organisers of Encounters for all their hard work, with particular thanks to Emily Bartlett, Kathryn Gjorgjiev, Steve Colburn, Clare Hunt, Rob Witts and Denise Decaires Narain for their hard work and commitment to such a varied and engaging programme. Our final thanks go to Denise as outgoing Director for the support and enthusiasm she has shown for the work of the Student Committee. The heartfelt messages circulated in our green notebooks as a gift to her shows just how much she will be missed.

Tune in next week where we will have further reflections on Encounters in more specific detail. And as always, if you wish to write a blog post for us on any topic or join our committee, please do get in touch via

Two Weeks of Greek Islands

Kate Docking, University of Kent

When I’m not ‘PhDing’, one of my favourite things to do is to find a cheap flight, cajole someone (usually my sister) into coming with me, and visit a new country. One of the highlights of my recent non-work related travels – if not the highlight, really – was going Greek island hopping in June with my friend Tab. Over the course of two weeks, we visited three islands in the Cyclades: Santorini, Anafi and Ios. Here is essentially a ‘mish-mash’ of some of my favourite bits.

One of Anafi‘s many isolated beaches

Swimming in the sulphur springs of Nea Kameni, a volcanic island very close to Santorini, was definitely a memorable experience. We got on a boat to get there, which ended up actually docking some distance away from the actual springs, and we were informed by the tour guide that only ‘strong swimmers’ should make the crossing. Tab and I quickly assessed our respective swimming abilities, and, more concerned on potentially losing out on the 20 euros each we’d coughed up to do the trip than the possibility of being stranded in the Aegean Sea, we launched ourselves off the side of the boat and completed the swim. Surrounded by hyperactive young backpackers wielding Go-Pros, we somewhat ceremoniously and a bit dubiously covered ourselves in the ‘sulphur-mud’ (I’m not certain what it actually was, but apparently it’s good for your skin). This was certainly a unique and fun way to spend one of our mornings in Santorini. Another Santorini highlight was the two and a half hour walk we undertook from Fira (the capital of Santorini) to Oia. We were laughably unprepared (we had about one bottle of water each in blazing heat), but thoroughly enjoyed the amazing views and talking about a range of riveting things on the way, such as Santorini building regulations and the ideal size of a water bottle.

The walk from Fira to Oia

After a week in Santorini, we spent a few days in Anafi, a much smaller island about an hour and a half boat away. I absolutely loved Anafi, and I think, on balance, it was my favourite island. For me, Anafi really encapsulated what springs to mind when someone mentions a Greek island: rugged beaches, traditional domed white houses, churches with blue tops, and incredible sunsets. As soon as we stepped off the ferry (while uttering the classic ‘I’ve still got my sea legs on!’ as we walked onto dry land), I knew Anafi would be a very different experience from touristy Santorini. Only a handful of us disembarked, and, indeed, we kept seeing the same people throughout our stay. We spent most of our time there sleeping under the tamarisk trees on many of the beautiful beaches, which provided a natural form of shade when the temperatures soared during the day, and swimming in crystal clear waters, often the only ones in the sea. Anafi remains untouched by mass tourism (for now), and I think that contributes greatly to its sense of isolation, ruggedness, and community. This is a place where people actually live, and have done for years, not somewhere that simply caters for the demands of modern tourists.


Our last island was Ios. We were firmly told by several people in Santorini that Ios that it was the ‘party island’, but it didn’t really live up to this reputation. When we arrived in the Chora on our first evening (the main village) we were faced with lots of virtually empty clubs and bars. We couldn’t walk through the streets without getting hounded by promoters trying to get us into their empty places. All Tab and I wanted was to find somewhere to have a drink that wasn’t 8 euros and didn’t consist of literally energy drink in a plastic bag. Surrounded by 18 year olds probably on their first trip abroad without an authoritative figure, I felt distinctly out of place. Ios was lovely – it’s got great beaches, a nice town with some really good restaurants and it’s very aesthetically pleasing – but it didn’t have the rugged charm of Anafi nor the jaw-dropping views of Santorini. But of course you can’t love everything about travelling, and our slightly negative experience of Ios definitely did not even taint what was an absolutely incredible trip.

A Day In The Life – Stuart Falconer (OU)

by Stuart Falconer, Open University, CHASE Student Committee member and OU Representative 

When it was suggested that I write a blog post focused around a day in my life my first thought was how?! How do I describe my ‘typical’ day – a word I would not associate with any of my days.

I have decided to share a relatively common day during my working week. If we were living in ideals, I would say here that my day starts by waking up and sitting in peaceful surroundings drinking coffee and reading a couple of academic articles. However, we don’t live in ideals, my day starts with my two small children waking me up by charging up and down the hall like elephants, then I head downstairs to be confronted by the world’s most excitable Labrador who needs feeding and letting outside.

Next, I need to sort the kids breakfast as well as making packed lunches for the family because “Tom has packed lunch, so I need it”. At this point I say goodbye to the wife and prepare for the school run and walking the dog (remembering to drop off disco consent forms and confirming son’s attendance at a birthday party) before swinging to the shops to restock on milk and bread. 

Finally, home, I get the kettle on and start thinking about my day. Firstly, I think about my work; as a module leader on an Archaeology degree, I need to ensure my weekly lectures are planned (and reports are written, and assignments marked). So late morning, family sorted, work prepped, I now address that nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach regarding neglected PhD work.

It is at this point that my priorities list bears fruit! I often find the potential for procrastination is high here, especially with the volume of administrative tasks associated with the PhD that I could ‘just quickly do whilst I have five minutes’. These include skills audits, conference abstracts, transport and accommodation for conferences and training, booking training opportunities, writing supervision notes and sorting my bibliography (I use Zotero) to name a few. Whilst necessary, it is at this point I readjust my focus and either read, annotate and critique academic articles, or I consider different methodologies and how these should mesh with theoretical approaches.

Late afternoon and I have made some PhD progress, but it is time to collect the children and prep dinner for family time. This time is one of the most significant of my day which I would not change for the world. Stepping away from research to spend time on other things is invaluable, especially when those things are friends and family – one of the best ways to relax, share your thoughts and feelings, and, remind yourself that you have a network of support around you.  After dinner, kids’ baths and stories read, I sit down on the sofa with my wife and my laptop (often during this period I tackle the admin tasks). Every day is different with regard to progress, goals, priorities, responsibilities and levels of success. Some days I make incredible progress and feel a little smug, other days I feel are wasted and the all too familiar imposter syndrome kicks in.

I find prioritising and tackling manageable chunks is a good time management method, as is seeking advice of others, and things like reading an article or writing a few hundred words a day, are good working practices to adopt. What I often find is that I adjust time allowances according to my situation. There are times where life is challenging, so I throw myself into my research, a tactic I use in the other direction too, if I have just read an article that I needed a thesaurus to comprehend, I may focus on lecture planning or admin tasks as an escape. There are plenty of opportunities through CHASE and host institutions to seek advice and support on how to effectively manage your time and to organise yourself. Be selective, think carefully about your intended career and what you want from your PhD as this will guide you and your decisions and remember to strike that balance between social, work and academic life!

CfP: The New Museum Paradigm: Shifting Representations of Empire at Museums and Art Galleries in the UK

Abstract Deadline: 21st June 2019

Provisional Date of Symposium: September 20-21st 2019

Location: University of Sussex

Please E-mail abstracts to 

Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words. Please include a short bio of no more than 150 words, along with your university affiliation.

It is widely held that the chronological development of ‘universal’ museums and their collections imitate the contours of imperial history. In recent years, this claim has led many museums in Europe and across the world to reconfigure their focus, appearing as places more inclusive of cultural diversity, in an open desire to move away from their colonial roots.
In Britain, the beginnings of this phenomenon can be traced back to the late 1980s, when, fuelled by the discourse of multiculturalism, museums began to re-engage with histories and legacies of Empire, not least because communities that had come to Britain as citizens of Empire in large numbers in the late-1940s and 1950s, and their descendants, began to make demands for better representation both politically and culturally. More recently, the commemoration of the bi-centenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 2007, which occurred in a milieu of memory and museum booms, marked a turning point in how museums use memory to engage and negotiate the imperial past.

In this context, collections and their interpretative methodologies are being redefined, leading to re-readings of historical narratives and to the normalisation of curatorial settings appealing to emotions, which sometimes make use of artistic methodologies. Exhibition projects thereby become sites of formation of utopian narratives in which knowledge of the past can be used to shape better presents and futures. In this, museums have become increasingly reliant on external sources – such as artists or communities – to provide the critical work necessary to redefine narratives, interpretations and methodologies. This introduction of multiple perspectives through a collaborative process leads to museums incorporating memory and personal testimony to interpret the history and legacies of the empire from a subjective perspective. While the application of these new strategies have had mixed success, this represents an important epistemic shift away from the primacy of the curatorial voice and the object in creating visual, textual and aural representations of colonial history towards the opening up of the museological process which can be seen as part of decolonsing the museum and the art gallery.

We welcome papers concerned with this new museum paradigm as it relates to representations of empire, colonialism, and slavery; principally, when, how, and why have these shifts taken places across museums and art galleries in the UK? Additionally we are interested in themes on the politics of display and repatriation, museums and migration in a postcolonial age, innovative museum practices towards decolonial futures, museums and public ‘postcolonial’ discourse, Visitors and the postcolonial museum, exhibition and collection histories, museums, art and politics, the role of art in memory-oriented exhibitions, decolonizing collections, city/local museums and representations of Empire & colonialism and more.

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