Cultural Sniping

What a term – strikes and snowstorms! Time for all of us to reflect perhaps on forces bigger even than the Department of History of Art. (As you’ll know, today – Friday 9 March – is not a strike day, but the strike continues next week Monday- Friday 12-16 March. More on the strike here, and please watch your email inboxes for updates.)

Meanwhile, in the interstices, our 50th anniversary events continue – fittingly celebrating a vision of the university as a place open to the world and engaged in its struggles. THIS EVENING, our Anniversary Exhibition opens in the Peltz Gallery with a reception at 6pm. ‘Cultural Sniping: Photographic Collaborations in the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive‘ showcases important materials from the archive (housed in the School of Arts) of the late Jo Spence, British photographer, writer, and self-described ‘cultural sniper’. It traces links and collaborations in activist art, radical publications, community photography and phototherapy from the 1970s and 1980s. Consistent with Spence’s ethos of radical pedagogy, the exhibition focuses on her collaborative working methods. It opens up the archive, displaying books, magazines, journals, collages, photographs, posters, pamphlets, notes, letters and props, to provide insights into Spence’s practices and the culture, politics and activism informing them. This has all come about as a unique collaboration between staff and students, involving Birkbeck History of Art lecturer, Patrizia Di Bello, Associate Research Fellow Frances Hatherly, and a group of History of Art and History of Art with Photography students. It’s on until 28 April so please take a look. (In case you’ve yet to discover it, the Peltz Gallery is in Gordon Square next to the reception area.)

I just snuck in to see how the installation was going, and it looks amazing… Here are the curators in action, eyeballing posters to see if they’re straight.

On Saturday 24 February two of the ‘Forward Looking’ anniversary workshops took place in the cinema, each focused on a distinct aspect of museums and museology. In the morning we heard various positions on ‘Making a Difference: Do Museums Matter in a Changing World?’, organised by Annie Coombes and Gabriel Koureas, while the afternoon, organised by Fiona Candlin, was devoted to ‘Museums Futures in a Time of Austerity’. Both workshops were a compelling mix of academic research and voices from professional practice, and concluded in lively discussions involving the speakers and audience. The day also marked an exciting new development for us: the launch of the department’s newest research centre, the Centre for Museum Cultures  – more on that soon…


The beginning of the UCU strike on 22-23 February meant that the anniversary lecture by V&A director Tristram Hunt and the ‘Future of Studying Old Art’ and the ‘Futures for Publishing in Art History’ workshops were postponed – readers of this blog will be the first to know the rescheduled dates.

Next month own Lynda Nead is giving a major public lecture, ‘Greyscale and Colour: The Hues of Nation and Empire in Post-War Britain’ at the V&A on Monday 9 April 2018 at 7pm – special rates for students.

And here’s a message from the Birkbeck History of Art Society about a great opportunity coming up next week:

Birkbeck History of Art Society has an opportunity to take you to a FREE tour to the Painted Hall ceiling in Old Royal Naval College (Greenwich) next Tuesday (13th of March) at 1 pm.The usual cost of the tickets is 11 pounds, so don’t miss out!

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see James Thornhill’s  masterpiece up close, thanks to the conservation project currently in place.

Please note that that the ceiling is 18 high and you will be using steps, so comfortable shoes are a must. Additionally, let us know if you require wheelchair access.

Due to the specifics of the structure we only take a group of 20 people to see the ceiling. Book your place by writing to us at Places are on first come, first serve basis. See you there!

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook!

You can find more about the Painted Hall project here:

Kind regards,

Mary, Carina, Ernestina and Tammy

Bye for now!