Feminism, Gender and Sexuality Seminar Series, UCL IOE

As part of the UCL Institute of Education Feminism, Gender and Sexuality seminar series, I’ll be presenting some of my doctoral work in progress.

Thursday 19th March 5.30 – 7pm: Room 539, 20 Bedford Way

The Great Wings of Silence: Queer Activism in Heritage Sites 

Sean Curran, IOE

Here’s the blurb:

Sean will present from their research about addressing the silence of LGBTQ narratives in heritage sites, using their own curatorial practice at the National Trust’s Sutton House in Hackney as a case study. Sean will raise questions about the roles of curators, artists and activists in challenging dominant narratives in public history and will present initial findings from a survey conducted with participants of a crowd-sourced LGBTQ intervention and will reflect on the challenges arising from practice-based research.

Evening session followed by informal drinks in the Student Union Bar (level 3)

About the Feminism, Gender and Sexuality Seminar Series

Organisers: Jenny Parkes, Emily Henderson, Charley Nussey, Claudia Lapping, Annette Braun

This group is designed for research students and staff to explore their work around feminism, gender and sexuality. We meet informally about three times a term, twice during lunchtimes and once during the evening; at each session a speaker is invited to reflect upon their ideas as they develop, and to use the discussion space for the exploration of their own questions. Session topics located within diverse disciplines are encouraged. At least one seminar each term addresses LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) research. The session to be held in the evening will be followed by drinks in the bar.

To join the seminar series list contact j.parkes@ioe.ac.uk

(the image is from an old Penguin edition of Woolf’s Orlando, which is where the ‘great wings’ quote comes from)

‘The village folk had a lot to say about it’ – from one heritage site to another? Guest post by Emily F. Henderson

To accompany the ‘Making Things‘ exhibition at the Institute of Education, we held a seminar to discuss the relationship between practice and the doctoral form. I invited Emily F. Henderson to respond to my work:

How to offer a response to a protest-research installation without reducing the impact of the installation to protest or research? This was the challenge that I faced when Sean invited me to respond to their contribution to the group show put together by doctoral students in the Art, Design and Museology department at the UCL Institute of Education (see blog post 26 January 2015). To try to take Sean’s installation in the spirit in which it was created, I offered three types of response, one for each of the objects that made up the installation: the zine, the sound piece, the tea-towel. Each of these objects offered a different possibility for thinking about how protest and research can be intertwined in different forms.

In Sean’s blog post about the installation, they situated the work in two different spaces. The first space was Red House at Bexleyheath. Sean had offered to make a sound piece representing the voices of villagers discussing the nature of the relationship between May Morris and Mary Lobb – the sound piece was to be made without expectation of payment, and it was to be based on archive sources that Sean had put together. This intervention in the way in which ‘non-normative’ relationships are erased and/or caricatured in heritage sites was rejected and not included in the heritage site. This ultimately resulted in there being a floating sound piece, which existed in the world as a protest object with no site for protest. The sound piece found a site in the group show at the Institute of Education, flanked by a zine illustrating the story of Mary Lobb’s erasure – and Sean’s own erasure – from the heritage sites that present William Morris’ life and work. Accompanying the zine was a William Morris design tea-towel – the traditional heritage site gift-shop purchase – upon which Sean had written in large letters ‘JUSTICE FOR MARY LOBB’, as a twist on the protest banner form.

Sean had said that they were interested in how the installation would work in an ‘exhibition environment’, a ‘gallery space’. In the photo that Sean has taken of the installation, it looks very much as if the work is displayed in a gallery – and it was a gallery, but it was a gallery within an academic department within a university. My response to the installation was very situated in the space of the university – what was the effect on Sean’s work of it being displayed in a university, and what was the effect on the university?

My first response took inspiration from the zine that Sean had created – how could the form of the zine provoke an interpretation of the installation? The zine genre is defined by a deliberate DIY format, in which pictures and text – handwritten and typed – are combined in a collage and photocopied in black and white. Looking at Sean’s zine, I found myself wondering how Sean had decided which elements to ‘mess with’, and which images or text they would preserve, framed intact within the zine. The question of obedience came into my mind – obedience to research convention versus disobedience (which could be taken as obedience to protest convention). Sean’s installation was obediently situated in its designated corner within the temporary gallery space of the department – did situating it in this way contribute to the ‘fetishising’ of protest objects that Sean was concerned about?

Thinking about the sound piece helped me to respond to this question. The coming to rest of the sound piece in this institutional gallery space transported the installation out of its context. Listening to the gossiping voices took me out of the space and into an imagined heritage site, a heritage site which could only exist in the imagination. The misplaced, displaced sound piece points to the intangible site of Sean’s protest-research: the ‘site’ of the lives that have been invisibilised and caricatured in heritage properties. The sound piece represents the way in which heritage houses produce and normalise an image of heterosexual, cis-gendered existence as the norm of history – an image which leaves any other account dismissed as gossip. Not fetishised then – rather all-too-aware of its uprootedness, its enforced rootlessness.

And this brings me to the tea-towel: the layering of a twee gift tea-towel with a painted protest slogan. This is perhaps one way of seeing the layering of Sean’s installation, and the exhibition as a whole, onto the institutional context that held it. I noticed in entering the exhibition space that I was entering a different part of the university to the classrooms and social spaces I normally inhabit. This space did not have a single institutional logo or branding item visible. There were floor-to-ceiling prints of vintage-looking artists overlooking us, flicking projected images on a punky orange screen, a quilt of photographs draped over the centre of the room, a detailed journey in pictures taking us along one of the walls, and Sean’s hyper-visible tea-towel and protruding ledge bearing the zine and headphones. It was difficult to know where to stand or sit – each of the exhibits had us turning and moving, leaning on them and knocking into them. The room exposed us and our bodies, brought us into the room. It struck me that this was a room that could shift thinking, could disrupt obedient research practice: the exhibition fleetingly layered the tea-towel of the institution with a protest for the value of the Arts and Humanities in higher education.

Sean’s protest work uses research to bring to light the erasure of lives from heritage sites. It is also important to recognise that their research work also makes a protest, in challenging what should be researched and how this research can take shape. Thanks go to Sean and the other exhibitors and respondents for a genuinely thought-provoking evening.

Emily F. Henderson 
UCL Institute of Education
Author, Gender pedagogy: Teaching, learning and tracing gender in higher education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)

‘Making things’ exhibition

Just a quickie, to share the poster (click on it for a larger version) for an upcoming exhibition that I am part of, based at the Institute of Education, showcasing work-in-progress from doctoral students in the Art, Design and Museology department whose research includes an element of practice. My work is a piece called ‘The village folk had a lot to say about it’, and it is in response to the neglectful interpretation of Mary Lobb at Kelmscott Manor.

There will also be a seminar, as you can see from the poster, in which there will be a respondent to each of the student’s work and a discussion about how research and practice intersect. I’m delighted to say that Emily F. Henderson, a PhD candidate at the IOE researching feminism, gender and queer theory in connection with international Higher Education, has kindly agreed to respond to my work. You can check out her new book here.

The exhibition opens the week before 126 does- eeeshk, it will be an exciting few weeks!

Queerly Theorising Higher Education & Academia: Interdisciplinary Conversations

Queerly Theorising Higher Education & Academia: Interdisciplinary Conversations 
Half-day International Symposium 

Monday 8th December 2014, 12 noon – 7:30pm, followed by a drinks reception

Room 802, Institute of Education (IOE), 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL 

This half-day international symposium brings together queer theorisations of higher education and academia that are currently developing within discipline-specific contexts. At this symposium, we will explore the ways that academia and higher education are being queerly theorised, and discuss how these theorisations are situated within and yet pushing against disciplinary settings. With an emphasis on conversation and discussion, the event will provide a platform for the collaborative development of ideas over the course of the day. Contributors to the round table and discussion-presentations range from established scholars to doctoral students, and are from a variety of disciplinary locations and institutional settings.

Round table participants: 
Oliver Davis – University of Warwick
Michael O’Rourke – ISSH, Macedonia & Global Center for Advanced Studies
Nick Rumens – Middlesex University
Yvette Taylor – Weeks Centre, London South Bank University
Kathryn Medien – University of Warwick (Chair)

James Burford – University of Auckland, New Zealand/Aotearoa
Jennifer Fraser – Birkbeck
Vicky Gunn – University of Glasgow
Emily F. Henderson – Institute of Education
Genine Hook – Monash University, Australia
Z Nicolazzo – Miami University, Ohio, US
Sean Curran – Institute of Education (Chair)
Emma Jones – Institute of Education (Chair)

Elliot Evans – King’s College London

The event will be hosted by CHES (Centre for Higher Education Studies) and is funded by the Bloomsbury ESRC Doctoral Training Centre.

Registration is free, but places are limited so booking is essential.

To book, or for further information, contact Emily Henderson:ehenderson01@ioe.ac.uk

RSVP by 14th November 2014.

Museums and Education in the 21st Century: global and local discourses

In a few weeks I will be speaking at a conference in Taipei, Taiwan called ‘Museums and Education in the 21st Century: global and local discourses’. This international conference will be convened by the Institute of Education and National Taiwan Normal University. The themes of the conference are based on the intersection between education in its broadest sense and “self-conscious‟ public museums as sites for social interaction, places of collision and possibility. Such sites move beyond the physical museum to embrace social media and the virtual museum. In particular this conference will seek a better understanding of the implications and contradictions of local and global changes for a rapidly expanding museum world.

 I will be giving a paper entitled ‘Master-Mistress: queer uncertainties in historic houses’, on a panel alongside LIN Ching Chiu and WU Dai Rong: ‘Embracing and Empowering Urban Youth: Social Relations, Social Responsibility and the Educational Roles of Museum’ and Hyunsoo KOH: ‘Comfort for Whom? Representation of ‘comfort women’ issue in Museum of Women’s Human Rights’. You can see the full programme here and more information about the conference here.

I’m really looking forward to it, there looks to be a really interesting cross-section of papers, and I’m excited to visit Asia for the first time! I’ll blog about the conference and about Taiwan once I return.

“Anthem for doomed youth”?: exploring conflict and resolution through archives

Join us on Tuesday, March 25th 2014, for our annual ‘Friends of Newsam Library & Archives’ (FNLA) Study Day. This year’s event, “Anthem for doomed youth”?: exploring conflict and resolution through archives, considers the concepts of war, conflict and peace through the lense of learning and education.

Document Reference: BDN/64

The day’s programme:

9.45-10.00 Welcome and Introductions (Sean Curran)
10.00-10.30 Activities in the Library and Archives (Sarah Aitchison)
10.30-11.30 Professor Stuart Foster Centenary First World War Battlefields Project
11.30-12.30 Dr Barry Blades, Teachers and the Great War, 1914-1919
12.30-13.30 Lunch (please bring your own). Tea and coffee will be provided.
13.30- 14.30 Walter Lewis, Educating Service Children in the 20th Century
14.30-15.30 Alix Hall, Thinking Outside the Box: Using Archives to Teach Perspectives on Wartime
15.30-16.00 Archive showcase of relevant collections from the Library Special Collections and Archives

Where: Newsam Library & Archives, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London

When: Tuesday, 25 March 2014 from 09:30 to 16:00

Register for free tickets here.

Find out more about the Friends of Newsam Library & Archives, including how to become a member, here.

Museum futures in an age of austerity

This weekend was the conference to celebrate 20 years of the MA in Museums and Galleries in Education at the IOE. It was a great opportunity to catch up with some former classmates and to meet professionals and fellow researchers who are making an innovative and inspiring impact on a sector in financial turmoil.

Instead of giving a blow by blow account of the three days, I thought it would be more useful to highlight some of the recurring themes throughout the wide range of papers given, and the three keynote speakers, which John Reeve neatly summarised on the final day. The obvious theme was austerity, and how museum and gallery professionals  are responding to this with creativity and innovation to provide new approaches to museum and education professionals with limited (or often no) funding. Advocacy was another theme, the importance of making the case, to institutions, schools, funders and the government. Another thread running through the conference was the idea of spectacle (in the form of big blockbuster exhibitions) vs engagement and meaning, which Professor Nick Stanley delved into in his keynote on the first day. In a time when many museums are hard pushed to put together blockbuster exhibitions (the definition of which was rightly problematised), curators and educators are finding ways to re-examine and re-interpret existing collections, and experimenting with different ways of approaching this, one of which was another recurring idea, that of the of artist intervention. This was underpinned by the idea of risk, and how many curators feel that artists aren’t bound by institutional standards meaning that their interpretation of collections have more room for creativity and rule-breaking, others suggested that curators may be censoring their own innovations in this sense, and that curators and artists are doing much the same thing. The final theme was about voices, particularly other voices, be it two way dialogues with museum visitors, a disruption of authority by inviting non-museum professionals a hand in curating and interpreting, or, as in my own paper, about marginalised voices finding their own ways of claiming heritage.

One of the most interesting and pleasing parts of the conference for me was finding myself in a community of fellow museum researchers, as PhDing can often be a rather isolated (and isolating) affair. I was particularly interested in the papers from other PhD students, and was really encouraged by the wide range of great research taking place. I particularly enjoyed Judith Brocklehurst and Annie Davey’s papers, as, although their research includes an element of art practice, they still got me thinking about more unique ways of approaching research. I also enjoyed Nina Trivedi from the University of Westminster, who was arguing that an exhibition catalogue has the potential to be a site in itself, and an alternative curatorial platform that allows contributors more risks that aren’t necessarily policed by the institutions as much as the exhibitions themselves.

Another paper I got a lot from was Helen Pike, events programmer from the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, where they have a Timekeeper in residence, who questioned the authority of the linear nature of time and the reliance on timelines in museums. This felt like an unquestionably queer critique of museum practice to me. You can find more about this project here.

A great three days, with lots to think about, and a perfect way to celebrate the first 20 years of the MA. Here’s to another twenty!

Some upcoming events

Just plugging a few events.

The first is the ‘Museum Futures in an Age of Austerity’ conference taking place at the Institute of Education from 14-16 June.

I will be giving my paper on Saturday 15th, it’s called:

Fetishising memory: The Holocaust memorial site as gay-cruising ground and the importance of pilgrimage as an affirmative queer experience

The programme is not quite finalised, but keep an eye on the conference webpage over the next few days, you can also buy your ticket for the event there too.

The second is on 27th June 5.30 – 7pm: Room 728, again at the IOE. It is the LGBTQ themed part of the Feminisms, Gender and Sexuality Seminar Series for this term, and I’m delighted to have been asked to present some of my research:

Let’s talk about sexuality: capturing, collecting and disseminating LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) oral his and her-stories

(followed by informal drinks in the Student Union Bar)

About the Feminisms, Gender and Sexuality Seminar Series:

Jenny Parkes, Emily Henderson, Charley Nussey, Claudia Lapping, Annette Braun

This group is designed for research students and staff to explore their work around feminisms, gender and sexuality. We meet informally about three times a term, twice during lunchtimes and once during the evening; at each session a speaker is invited to reflect upon their ideas as they develop, and to use the discussion space for the exploration of their own questions. Session topics located within diverse disciplines are encouraged. At least one seminar each term addresses LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) research. The session to be held in the evening will be followed by drinks in the bar.

To book a place at the seminar, contact Annette Braun at a.braun@ioe.ac.uk.

Also, one final point, my MA dissertation is now available for reference use in the IOE library. The dissertations from 2000 onwards are all up on level 5 and arranged alphabetically by author’s surname.

‘Tools of the Trade’ event report

Tools of the Trade: Historical Textbooks and other Teaching and Learning Resources
The 2013 Friends of Newsam Library and Archives study day

Just thought I would briefly report on the IOE Friends of the Library and Archives study day that I organised with Becky Webster’s help.

On Wednesday 6th of February, our annual study day, sponsored by the Friends of the Newsam Library and Archives took place. The inspiration for the theme of the day was the rich historical textbook collections held by the library and recent and current projects to catalogue the geography, history, science and technology textbooks. The day began with a brief overview of the archive collections by Deputy Archivist Becky Webster, followed by Dr Toby Simpson, the Learning and Engagement Manager from The Wiener Library, who gave an illuminating and shocking talk about how German children were taught Nazi values through propaganda in textbooks from 1933-1945, which had been the subject of a recent exhibition at the Wiener. We are very fortunate here at the Institute of Education to be within walking distance of such a rich collection with a profoundly important history, not to mention a beautiful reading room and expert staff. Next, Nazlin Bhimani and Antony Daws from the IOE Library spoke about the historical textbooks collection and supporting research, and the history of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) and its resources respectively. After lunch, Bernard Barker recounted his experiences as a history teacher in the 1970s, and the controversy surrounding his innovative and inspirational teaching style. Bernard’s latest book (due in January 2014) is ‘Education and Social Mobility: Dreams of Success’. The final slot of the day was occupied by two current MPhil/PhD students from the IOE, Alice Kirke and myself, both of us received AHRC funding for our research.  Alice, an education historian, spoke about landscape and the environment in the history of education, looking specifically at the contested understandings and practices of rural education. I spoke about my research with the National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT) collection in the IOE Archives and looked at case studies of how women’s archive collections can be used effectively in outreach and education. The day ended with a showcase of many of the archive and library collections that were mentioned throughout the event. The study day was well attended and generated lots of interesting questions, discussions and debate. A huge thank you to everyone who attended, and special thanks to the speakers. We look forward to embarking on the planning of the 2014 study day!

You can find out more about the Friends group here.

‘Museum Futures in an Age of Austerity’ conference 14-16 June 2013

IOE Logo

Just a quick plug for a 3 day conference at the IOE in June.

‘Museum Futures in an Age of Austerity’
14-16 June 2013

Museum Futures in an Age of Austerity is a three day conference in central London. It brings together a diverse range of speakers to discuss the massive changes in practice, philosophy and policy that present both challenges and opportunities for the museum and its publics. This conference also celebrates 20 years of the IOE MA Programme: Museums and Galleries in Education.

The Call for papers includes the following themes:

  • Past futures – reinterpreting museum histories
  • Rethinking Boundaries
  • Sustaining cultural learning

The deadline for proposals is 5 April 2013.

There is more information, including a breakdown of the themes here.