The Season of the Survey – and an important date for your diaries

Students who were also with us last year will remember that, in late January, we enter the Season of the Survey! Birkbeck participates in and run a variety of surveys, and final year undergraduates will have recently been contacted about the National Student Survey. I know that doing one of these can seem like a chore, but it really is vital for us that everyone asked to complete the survey does so. It doesn’t take long, and it gives us crucial feedback on how we’re doing: on what we’re doing well (for more on which, do take a look at and on what we can improve. The more we can learn about your views, and about your experiences of studying at Birkbeck, the better. Non-final-year undergraduates will be invited to participate in the Birkbeck Student Survey, whilst Postgraduate Taught students will be contacted about the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey.

I’m pleased to be able to tell you about a couple of recent celebrations of the achievements of staff and students! Andre Nelson-Williams, one of our second year undergraduates, has won an inspirational young person award, for his community work and art – congratulations Andre! And, on Thursday last week, in the Keynes library, Dr. Fiona Candlin celebrated the launch of her new book, Micromuseology. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll remember that Fiona wrote a piece for us at the end of last term, outlining the work she’s conducted on small, independent, single-subject museums: institutions such as the Museum of Witchcraft. In her book, Fiona explores how ‘micromuseums’ challenge our preconceived ideas about what museums are and how they operate. I was personally disappointed not to be able to raise a glass to Fiona on the evening (a double teaching session with students on my ‘Portraiture in England in the Long Eighteenth Century’ course – they showed impressive stamina for three hours!) – but here’s a lovely photo of Fiona, celebrating her achievement with Dr. Joanne Morra, Reader in Art History and Theory at Central St Martins, and Dr. Irving Finkel, Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian Script, Languages and Cultures at the British Museum.


As ever, I have more upcoming events to tell you about. The next event being organised by the Architecture, Space and Society Centre is a week today (5pm, 12th February, Keynes Library). Norbert Nussbaum, from the University of Cologne, will be delivering a lecture entitled ‘From the Belly of the Architect’. This is the first in the Centre’s Thinkers in Architecture series, which is bringing prominent architectural historians, critics and thinkers to Birkbeck, to give extended talks about issues emerging from their research. It’s going to be a great pleasure for the College to welcome Professor Nussbaum, a distinguished architectural historian and author of seminal studies on German medieval architecture and Gothic vaults. He is also deeply engaged with contemporary architectural issues, as well as the investigation, reconstruction and conservation of buildings. This is a free event, but you do need to register for a place.


As you’ll know, one of the key organisers of the ASSC is Dr. Leslie Topp. Leslie left London a couple of days ago to head over to Washington DC, and the College Art Association annual conference. Leslie’s giving a paper entitled ‘The Habsburg Asylum and Visual Imagery: Exposure and Transparency’, as part of a panel on ‘Modernism and Medicine’. This draws on work conducted for her book, Freedom and the Cage: Modern Architecture and Psychiatry in Central Europe, 1890-1914, to be published by Penn State University Press next year.

Another forthcoming public event is of particular importance to, and a source of pride for the History of Art department. Every other year, we host the Murray Memorial Lecture, in honour of Peter Murray, Professor of History of Art at Birkbeck between 1967 and 1980, responsible for establishing History of Art as an undergraduate discipline in the College. The next Murray lecture will be taking place on Tuesday 15th March, at 6pm, and will be delivered by Professor Patricia Rubin, Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She’s going to be giving a lecture with the very enticing title: ‘Bent Elbows, Bare Bottoms, and Bending Meanings: Shifting Perspectives on Viewing the Male Body in Art’.  Absolutely not to be missed! The Murray lecture is always a major event for our department, bringing together past, present and prospective students, so please do save the date. I’ll be able to give you more details about how to register a place in my next blog….