Enjoy the Easter vacation!

We’re now in the last week of the Spring term – a big week for the History of Art department, as our Internal Review takes place this evening (Wednesday) and all day tomorrow. Every department in the College has such a review every four years, and it’s a key moment to pause and reflect on every aspect of our programmes – from admission, through curricula and learning resources, to assessment. The Review starts at 6pm today with a group of students meeting with the panel, and I want to take this opportunity to express our thanks again to those of you who have so kindly agreed to take the time to be part of this event. When we sent out emails to a range of students from across our programmes, from the Certificate through to the PhD, inviting participation in this meeting, we were so pleased to receive so many willing and enthusiastic responses.

Before I move onto telling you about some departmental news from the last couple of weeks, I want to remind you of a couple of funding opportunities….

One is the London Art History Society research fund, available to support the research of MA and MPhil/PhD students in the History of Art department. The London Art History Society is an organisation affiliated to the Birkbeck History of Art society, and it has generously established this fund to help our postgraduate students with expenses relating to their research. This academic year, MA students can apply for a sum of money up to a maximum of £150, while MPhil and PhD students are eligible to make an application for a sum up to a maximum of £300. Any research-related expenses are potentially eligible, including travel, accommodation, photography and photocopying. We award this money on a first come first served basis, so please do get in any applications you’d like to make as soon as you can. Having met with a number of Masters students over the last few weeks, to discuss developing research projects and dissertation plans, I know that many of you are now concentrating on these independent pieces of work, and so are in a position to start making good use of this fund. You can find out details of how to apply here. This is also a handy opportunity to recommend that everyone keep an eye on the Society’s programme of events. Having just had a rummage through their website, I’m reminded that a lecture by our own Tag Gronberg is coming up soon: On the scent of Art Deco, Tuesday 11 April!

The other opportunity is one I’d like to flag up to those BA and Graduate Certificate students due to complete this summer. Last year, we were lucky enough to be able to announce a generous donation from Graham and Denise Wallace, to fund a series of studentships for our Masters programmes. These studentships are available for all three of our MAs: in History of Art; History of Art with Photography; and Museum Cultures. This donation is in honour of the History of Art department’s upcoming Anniversary, next academic year, celebrating 50 years of widening access to the discipline. We were delighted to award the first studentships last summer, and we are now advertising one full-time Masters studentship for the coming academic year, 2017-18. This is non-repayable, and will cover the successful student’s fees and a contributory stipend of £2000 pa. These studentships are available to Home/EU students, and are allocated on two criteria: academic excellence and financial need. When making the award, the panel will give priority to those applicants who are able to demonstrate strong promise for Masters work, but who would be unable to progress to taught postgraduate study without financial support. If you are considering a full-time Masters programme next academic year, and feel that you can make a strong case for a studentship on these grounds, then do take a look at this webpage to find full details. The deadline is the end of next month, Sunday 30 April 2017. 

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So, onto some news – beginning with a couple of follow-ups. In a previous blog posting, I advertised a lecture by T.J Clark, organised by the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities on 2 March, asking ‘What can Art History Say about Giotto?’. My attention was drawn the other day to this lovely comment about Professor Clark’s talk on our School of Arts facebook page: ‘I went and it was amazing – never seen an audience so enraptured. Can’t wait for the new book…’ You’ll also remember that, for the last blog, Charlotte Ashby wrote a great piece about her new book, Modernism in Scandinavia: Art, Architecture and Design, recently published by Bloomsbury. I have a copy of the flyer in front of me, with some impressive plaudits. This from Professor David Jackson of the University of Leeds:Charlotte Ashby’s impressively wide-ranging survey of Nordic modernism is a timely and much needed examination of the complex and interrelated strands of Scandinavian innovation in theory and practice. Its inclusive and multi-disciplinary approach, giving recognition to the internal and international impulses that fuelled the phenomenal successes of progressive Nordic culture, offers a fresh and original consideration that will appeal to the specialist and general reader alike.’ What great feedback! Charlotte celebrated with a launch in the Keynes library last week, presenting some of the material from the book in a fascinating lecture before the guests tucked into their wine and nibbles.

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Meanwhile, Gabriel Koureas has been very busy, speaking at and co-organising an international conference on ‘Museums and their Publics at Sites of Conflicted Histories’, at the recently opened POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw (13-15 March). Gabriel’s paper was entitled ‘Conflicted Histories in the Re-designed Imperial War Museum London: Heroes and Perpetrators’. He explored what he terms ‘selective empathy’ in the space of the re-designed Imperial War Museum in London, through two particular objects. One was the ‘L’ Battery QF 13 pdr Mk 1 (Nery Gun), which has become symbolic of the First World War since it was first exhibited in 1921, currently re-positioned in the atrium of the museum. The second was the Ferret Mk II, 4×4 Scout United Nations Car, that served in Cyprus. In his paper, Gabriel unravelled the dynamics and exchanges that take place between memory, history, victim and perpetrator on the one hand, and empathy on the other.

Gabriel was not the only member of the School of Arts at Birkbeck to head over to Warsaw for the conference, however – it was a veritable delegation! Anthony Bale from English and Humanities spoke about ‘Blood in London’, Diana Popescu, a Research Fellow at the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism, gave a paper on ‘Performing local memories of multicultural pasts in contemporary Poland’, Kasia Murawska-Muthesius, from our department, engaged with the ‘The Critical Museum’ and its debates – while Annie Coombes was also on the academic organising committee. I hear that Kasia organised a traditional Polish dinner in Warsaw for the Birkbeck group – sounds like a lot of fun!

I shall now sign off for the Easter vacation. I know there is lots of hard work to be done over the next few weeks – not least by those undergraduates who have exams coming up in the summer, and especially by final year BA students who are also submitting their dissertations at the start of the new term. I hope you do all get the chance for a break as well. But, before I go, a couple of dates for your diaries. A few days after we get back after the vacation, the History and Theory of Photography Centre will be holding its next lecture. Dr. Christina Riggs, from the University of East Anglia, will be coming to speak about Photographing Tutankhamun: Photo-objects and the archival afterlives of colonial archaeology (Thursday 27 April, 6-7:30pm, Room 106, School of Arts). And do make a note that Birkbeck Arts Week 2017 will be taking place between 15 and 19 May – watch this space for further announcements! Those of you who have been with us in previous years will rightly be expecting a typically packed week of free events, from lectures and workshops through to performances and guided walks. I had a sneak peek at the draft programme the other day, and it looks as exciting as ever…

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