Monthly Archives: June 2014

Chicago Archives: Imogen reports on a research trip to the US

A view of Chicago from the Willis Tower, 1,353 feet up

A view of Chicago from the Willis Tower, 1,353 feet up

An aspect of PhD research that I especially enjoy is tracking down and analysing archival material. I’ve recently returned from a five-week research trip to the US (generously funded by an AHRC grant) where I visited 9 different archives that hold documentation relating to the art therapy courses that Bauhaus artist and teacher László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) developed at the Institute of Design in Chicago in 1943. In 1933 the Nazis closed the Bauhaus school of art in Germany, and Moholy-Nagy, like many of the institution’s teachers and students, emigrated to the US where he continued to practise and develop Bauhaus concepts and methods.

To find out more about both Moholy-Nagy’s interest in the possibilities of art therapy and the medical professionals with whom he worked, I spent most of my time in Chicago (Birmingham’s twin city), where I visited archives at the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and the Chicago History Museum. I also flew to New York to pursue my lines of enquiry further, spending my mornings at the Archives of American Art and afternoons at The Museum of Modern Art archives. (I would need another blog post entirely to explain why researching at MoMA was so particularly exciting…) The following week, I hotfooted it over on an Amtrak train to Springfield, the capital of Illinois, to view documentation from the slightly bizarrely titled ‘Department of Mental Hygiene’ from the 1940s.

MoMA sculpture garden

MoMA sculpture garden

Archives are rich and exciting sources of information. Unpublished letters, reports, minutes, manuscripts, and diaries, as well as exhibition catalogues, advertisements and newspaper articles all communicate vital empirical information about how people or institutions operated together, and subsequently pave the way for further investigation into what particular art practices might mean. Archival research leads to exciting moments of discovery when you stumble across an illuminating reference. There were moments during my trip, usually towards the end of the day when, tired and hungry, I was jolted sharply from the haze of fatigue by a reference leaping out from a file. On one occasion, this was an unpublished typescript written by Moholy-Nagy, held within the personal papers of a Chicago-based occupational therapist, which contributes to my understanding of how, and with whom the artist operated within the therapeutic field. These small instances of revelation amount collectively to a greater understanding of a subject.

Of course, there are also pitfalls to archival research. Archives raise questions about the possibilities of over-interpretation. How far can you draw conclusions by analysing the language used in letters, which might have been written in haste, for example? Importantly, Michel Foucault argues that archives are a source of power in society and that their storage is never a passive act. Primary source documentation shapes how history is written, and, in light of this, omissions and silences in material can be as significant as what is recorded…

Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate (the artist's first public outdoor work installed in the US)

Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (the artist’s first public outdoor work installed in the US)

 

'The Bean' at night

‘The Bean’ at night

During my time in the US, I was also fortunate to meet up with archivists, curators and research fellows, which led to thought-provoking discussions about my PhD research and allowed me to consider further the position of my own work within current scholarship.

Alongside my research in the archives, I also had the opportunity to explore the exciting and culturally-rich city of Chicago, experiencing Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, views from the 1,353 foot high Willis Tower ledge, a free open-air Tchaikovsky concert at Millennium Park and fireworks at Navy Pier. Not to mention the incredible collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, outdoor public artworks by Picasso, Miro, Chagall and Dubuffet, Hull-House Museum, the underground Art Deco vaults at the Chicago Board of Traders (normally closed to the public), a river-boat architecture tour, the renowned antique Randolph Street Market, the grand stairs at Union Station from The Untouchables, Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza, and drinks on the 96th floor of the Hancock Center…

 

Picasso's untitled sculpture at Daley Plaza

Picasso’s untitled sculpture at Daley Plaza

Top of the John Hancock Center

Top of the John Hancock Center

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877 at the incredible Art Institute of Chicago

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877, at the Art Institute of Chicago

Post-archive ice cream...

Post-archive ice cream…

Why I like this module…Digital Culture

History of Art student, Hannah, tells us why Digital Culture is an exciting MOMD offered at UoB – an MOMD is a Module outside the Main Discipline that can be taken alongside your main degree programme, allowing you to explore a different discipline during your undergraduate studies…

Hannah Welfare, 1st year BA, History of Art

Hannah Welfare, 1st year BA, History of Art

Digital Culture is taught in a very different style to other modules I have taken. We are taught in a very ‘hands-on’ style and explore images and programmes using large touch tables. In particular I am learning how to research history and culture through the use of digital technology, such as Google Earth. Through this I feel that I have learnt how I can use digital technology to present my research in both a visual and innovative way. I am also learning about the limits of digital technology in the fields of history and culture. The module is giving me a great insight into how the opportunities of the new digital age can develop my historical research, and so I am glad that I’m taking this module as my MOMD.

In the 21st century, digital technologies are ubiquitous and so an understanding of their applicability and value within the Arts and Humanities and beyond is of fundamental importance for both academic study and employability. Using case studies from various cultural collections, this course introduces students to a range of digital technologies in a practical, hands-on way, whilst relating their use to diverse research cultures. It includes the analysis of current and future trends in digital technologies, such as massive and open data, multi-touch and multi-user interfaces, and the 3D internet.digital

This first year MOMD:

  • is assessed by the creation of a multimedia output and an oral presentation,
  • allows students to relate their studies directly to their own degree disciplines,
  • is taught across the disciplines leading to fascinating cross-disciplinary debate.

 

To find out more about the Digital Humanities Hub click here.

Cultural Internships 2014-15: an opportunity not to be missed!

Are you a UoB graduate looking to gain experience in the cultural sector? Then look no further, applications are now open for this year’s Cultural Intern Scheme, so get yours in now!

Successful applicants will be given the opportunity to work in one of the region’s fantastic cultural institutions, with the added support and training offered by the University of Birmingham’s Cultural Engagement team. 6-month paid internships are available at:

BBC BirminghamBirmingham Museums Trust, Birmingham Opera Company, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Flatpack Film Festival, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Performances Birmingham (Town Hall/Symphony Hall), Sampad, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

For more information on how to apply go to the Cultural Internship webpage, the deadline for applications is 21st July 201UoB crest4.

Having benefited from being a Cultural Intern, I can thoroughly recommend applying for this fantastic scheme, if you would like to read about my experience at Birmingham Museums Trust, see my post here. Read about some of the other interns’ experiences on the UoB Culture blog.

Good luck to this year’s applicants!

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Why I like this module…Women and Artistic Culture in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period

Joint Honours student, Holly, tells us why she enjoyed this final year module…

Holly Wain, finalist, BA French and History of Art

Holly Wain, finalist, BA French and History of Art

Women and artistic culture is a very interesting and well-formulated module. It has given me a new perspective on medieval art and culture as it draws upon the recent growth of scholarship on women as active subjects of the period. In lectures and seminars we are encouraged to look at art critically and I have been able to see images in a new light. Instead of rewriting past historians’ views we are able to develop our own, through carefully chosen reading lists that enable us to apply contemporary writing on gender to the medieval period.

The module has also helped with my dissertation as it has given me a more in depth understanding of the medieval period and it has tied in with a module in the French side of my degree on contemporary female fiction. I have enjoyed the module as it is not limited to one type of art or one methodology.

Read Holly’s post on her research project on a manuscript in Liège here.

madonna and childThis final year special subject:

•is taught by Dr Elizabeth L’Estrange, a specialist in art and manuscripts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries

•explores works of art in relation to ideas about sexuality and gender in the medieval and early modern period

•Focuses on the different social, political, and religious roles played by women and how this shaped their art patronage

•Examines works produced or commissioned by women such as Sofonisba Anguissola, Isabella d’Este, Margaret of Austria, and Elizabeth I

 

More posts to follow from the undergraduates, so watch this space!

Why I like this module… Inside the Gallery: Histories, Theories, and Practices of Museums and Galleries

If you’re heading into Year 12 or 13, now is the season of Open Days and all things Uni-related. As part of that season, we’ll be showcasing a few of our modules here on The Golovine to give you a sense of what they involve and what our students make of them. First up, Romy and Sophie give us their views on the second year module, Inside the Gallery: Histories, Theories, and Practices of Museums and Galleries.

Inside the Gallery’ was one of the most interesting modules that I took in my second year. The module looks at the role of museums and galleries and the practicalities of exhibiting art works. Over the course we visited various museums across Birmingham and had talks by individuals working within fields such as curating and restoration. The assessment of the module requires the group to create their own hypothetical exhibition, using the knowledge gained to plan out an exhibition in its entirety, from loan requests and installation procedures to budgeting and marketing the show.

Romy, Second Year, BA History of Art

Romy, Second Year, BA History of Art

I really enjoyed the active basis of the course that required me to think about art differently. As I am very interested in the possibilities of working with art, meeting those people who have incredibly exciting roles has given me insight into where I may take my future career.”

 

This second year module:
•draws on the expertise of our own gallery, the Barber Institute
•explores other collections in and around Birmingham
•offers an insight into museums’ curating, marketing, education and finance departments
•is assessed by a virtual exhibition

 

Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Barber Institute of Fine Arts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I recently had a great opportunity to put the skills I learnt from taking ‘Inside the Gallery’ into practice when I worked with South African artist Cathy Layzellto develop and organise an exhibition of her work. After securing the venue, the exhibition had to be marketed, the artwork organised for display and priced. The exhibition was a huge success, with Cathy selling much of her work and it was an enjoyable day for all.

Sophie, finalist, JH History of Art and History

Sophie, finalist, JH History of Art and History

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to take this course, which just shows the range of topics available to students of Art History at the University of Birmingham. Not only is there great diversity in the type of art that we study, but we also learn how to apply our knowledge in the modern day art world.”

 

To find out more about Inside the Gallery and other courses on offer, click here.

If you want to get a real feel for studying History of Art with us amongst the fantastic collections of the Barber Institute, come along to our History of Art Taster Day on 20th September – find out more here and check back for the full programme soon!

Professor Lisa Jardine and Excavating Early Modern Women’s History, 18th June

Professor Lisa Jardine

in conversation with IAS Distinguished Visiting Fellow Dr Nadine Akkerman

Challenges for Early Modern Women’s History

 Wednesday 18th June 2014

 Barber Institute of Fine Arts 4.30- 5.30pm

 Jardine

 

The University of Birmingham

Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)

Archival research has dramatically altered women’s studies. It has confirmed the fact that early modern women writers published not chiefly in print, but mostly in manuscript. Since the 1980s English literary scholars have discovered hundreds of manuscripts penned by female authors in widely-dispersed libraries and repositories. Anthologies and digital projects such as PERDITA have made access to these texts easier for researchers and students alike. But while in this way more female authors (letter-writers, poets and playwrights) have been able to capture our attention, the political dealings of Englishwomen, even those of the highest status, have continued to be neglected. Apart from the correspondence of Elizabeth I, for instance, none of the letters of royal Englishwomen, whether queens-consort or regnant, have been collected or edited. Nor have these textual traces been scrutinised for evidence of the writers’ real historical importance. Jardine and Akkerman will offer exciting new research opportunities for excavating early modern women’s history.

There will be opportunities for questions and a reception.

Lisa Jardine CBE is Professor of Renaissance Studies at University College, London, where she is Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Humanities and Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters.

 

The event is free but booking is essential.

Connoisseurship Now? Continued.

Anon. The Connoisseur, 1830, lithograph and watercolour, Yale Center for British Art

Anon. The Connoisseur, 1830, lithograph and watercolour, Yale Center for British Art

Regular readers might remember that I recently went off to the Paul Mellon Centre to attend a conference devoted to the subject of connoisseurship and its future directions, or lack thereof, perhaps–you can read my thoughts on that here.

Anyway, the Paul Mellon Centre has made the day’s proceedings available online. You can watch all the papers here.

(Thank you also to Bendor Grosvenor for re-blogging my post about the conference on his own blog, which really is worth a read!)

Jamie Edwards

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