Eva studied for her Graduate Certificate, MA and PhD in History of Art at Birkbeck, spanning a period of nearly 10 years. Her thesis is being submitted later this year and focuses on the significance and context of late medieval art and architecture in Swedish Parish Churches.
What encouraged you to attend Birkbeck?
Through a long and successful career in banking, I had always held an aspiration to study a subject in the humanities. An opportunity to explore this ambition further arose when my husband and I decided to start a consultancy business together.
My initial attempt at a few lifelong learning courses at other institutions did not provide the level of academic rigour that I was looking for. On the recommendation of friends who had already studied at Birkbeck, I was attracted by the wide range of courses on offer at the College. I came for an initial interview in the Department of History of Art and immediately felt that it could offer the level and flexibility of study that I wanted. Hence, following completion of the excellent Graduate Certificate programme in History of Art, I decided to continue with an MA. It was during the MA programme that the pursuit of late medieval art and architecture in Northern Europe and Sweden started in earnest. Those studies subsequently developed into my doctoral project and now my PhD marks the crowning achievement of my studies at Birkbeck.
How did it feel studying again?
Being a mature student free from outside pressure has been incredibly rewarding. Of course, my chosen academic path has not been without challenges, but the opportunity to study purely for the pursuit of knowledge and critical thinking has been a privilege.
Tell us about your PhD and what inspired you to continue your studies.
The subject of my doctoral project is late medieval art and architecture manifested in parish churches around Lake Mälaren in central Sweden. As a Swedish national, Birkbeck offered me the opportunity to bring this unique material to a wider academic audience. A central strand of my research concerns the interrelationship between architecture and image and their function in contemporary liturgical and devotional contexts. In so doing, my thesis argues that the mode of viewing and the expectation of the audience become critical tools for their interpretation.
Congratulations on completing this year! What are your next steps?
My plans are still work in progress. I have some small amendments to make before my final thesis hand-in, then, as a first step, I aim to investigate channels and sources of funding for possible publication whether as a monograph or in detailed essays. Longer term this may involve giving papers at conferences and organising academic visits to monuments included in my research.
What advice would you give to someone considering beginning a PhD?
Be passionate about your research subject matter! Remember that the PhD process can be all consuming at times and be prepared for setbacks along the route. The relationship with your supervisor is key to a successful and rewarding project. You will also need a support network of peers and friends to share in the experience
What have you enjoyed most during your time at Birkbeck?
Throughout my studies at Birkbeck I have encountered many inspirational tutors who have greatly stimulated and encouraged me along my academic path. Moreover, the diversity of the students adds interesting dimensions to the scholarly debate both in terms of approach to the discipline as well as previous experience and age. Interacting with students in their early 30s and students in their 70s has been very stimulating. I think Birkbeck is wonderful to offer opportunities for anybody who wants to take up part-time studies with its very wide and flexible range of programmes.