Feedback, Festivals, and Firearms

It’s student survey time again: your chance as Birkbeck students to give your feedback on your experience here, negative and, hopefully, positive. If you’re in your final year of a BA programme, you’ll have received (several) emails from the National Student Survey, which is the big one, the results of which are publicly available, and paid close attention to by the government’s Office for Students. Please do take the time to fill it out. There are also internal Birkbeck surveys for all other students, undergrad, postgrad, and PhD, and we are very eager to have as many people as possible fill those out. You can find links to all the surveys here, along with info about how we’ve changed things in the past in response to your feedback. I’m also always very happy to have feedback on any aspect of your programmes and Birkbeck experience – you can email me directly at

Our students and staff continue to be active in the blogosphere. Here, Associate Lecturer Monica Bohm-Duchen how she’s launched a major national arts festival, Insiders/Outsiders, devoted to documenting the experiences of refugees from Nazi Europe and their contribution to British culture. Part of the inspiration was a course she taught for us (which will be offered again in 2018-19) on The Immigrant Experience in British Art. See her blog post for upcoming film screenings in the Birkbeck cinema and an exhibition in the Peltz Gallery.

Lorna Robertson, who graduated recently from the MA History of Art with Photography, posts here about her research in our department’s Jo Spence Memorial Library on what the holdings convey about the representation of women in visual culture. If you’re inspired to apply to the MA, you may have seen that we now offer a separate MA History of Photography, as well as MA History of Architecture, MA History of Art and MA Museum Cultures. All are open for applications for 2019-20 until October 2019.

And some news and an invitation from alumna Fiona Clague:

‘I graduated from the BA History of Art programme at Birkbeck in 2015 where an introduction into contemporary strategies of display in my final year has proved an invaluable resource. I am currently working for arts organisation Roaming Room (, involved in all aspects of the development and administration of its most recent project, The Theatre of Buildings which explores the potential of showing contemporary art in unexpected architectural spaces and abandoned buildings. The project is focussed on supporting artists working in installation, film, performance and two dimensional work across four different buildings in London, including an old telephone exchange, a 19th century library, a cinema and the now disused Lambeth County Court rooms in Kennington (Greta Alfaro solo show starts 25th April).  Next Thursday 7th March, Roaming Room will host a pop-up evening of artists’ short films at the refurbished Art Deco cinema, Gracepoint, in Islington. Everyone welcome – drinks from 6.30 pm, films will start at 7pm – programme 75 minutes. Do come along – see poster for details.’

I (this is Leslie again) was part of an event when I was visiting fellow at Queen’s University in Ontario with a fun format and a serious topic – it was a free-form conversation, complete with sofa, between me and Queen’s philosopher Lisa Guenther, on the topic of liberation and confinement in the single room. They’ve just launched a podcast series, and our conversation is first up. So, for your listening pleasure on your next long journey, here it is. And if you want to see something similar live, put 24 June in your diary. Lisa Guenther will be visiting Birkbeck and we’re planning a reprise, with a third participant, the renowned historian Barbara Taylor, from Queen Mary University of London.

Our research centres are hosting a whole clutch of events over the coming weeks:

As mentioned in my last blog, the Architecture Space and Society Centre has two diverse and fascinating talks by distinguished visiting academics coming up: Caroline Van Eck (Cambridge University) will give our annual Thinker in Architecture lecture this Friday 8 March 6pm in Keynes Library on ‘Changing Objectscapes, Mediterranean Connectivity and the Emergence of the Empire Style in Rome and Paris’. Then the following Friday 15 March, 6pm, in Gordon Sq room 106, Claire Zimmerman (University of Michigan) gives a paper on a 20th-century American topic with global dimensions: ‘Building the World Capitalist System: Albert Kahn Associates of Detroit, 1900-1961’.

The next Murray seminar features Sandy Heslop (University of East Anglia) on the questions surrounding a medieval manuscript: ‘The Tiberius Psalter: a book for Archbishop Stigand?’, 18 March 5pm in Keynes Library.

Jennifer Tucker, who is Associate Professor of History and Science in Society at Wesleyan University (USA), is visiting Birkbeck and giving two talks on aspects of her work on the visual culture and museology of firearms (a hot topic in the US). The Centre for Museum Cultures hosts her on 25 March 6pm in Keynes, when she’ll speak alongside Jonathan Ferguson (Keeper of Firearms & Artillery, Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds) on ‘Curating Firearms in Museums in the 21st Century’. Then on 26 March 6pm she’ll be back in Keynes at a talk organised by the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre entitled ‘Load, Point and Shoot:  Cameras, Gun Cartridges, and the “Black Boxes” of History’ in which among other things she’ll be discussing this amazing image:

Laurie Simmons, Walking Gun (1991), gelatine silver print, Metropolitan Museum of Art

And this week, Wednesday 6 March, 7:30-9, GOR G20, is the latest in the Arts employability events, featuring Clifford Thompson, writer and journalist for the BBC, talking about his work experience. All welcome – book here. Plus a future date for your diary: Tuesday 14 May, evening, will be a special History of Art-focused employability event. More in a future post!

Plus another employment-focused opportunity later this month on 22 March in case you’d like to explore a career in teaching art history: a Discovery Day for Art History and Fine Art undergraduate students, post-graduate students and new and potential teachers of Art History A level, to be held at Dulwich Picture Gallery. This will be a chance to prepare materials, share ideas and test out strategies for teaching, that could be used for A level Art History, Art & Design Personal Studies and EPQs. Participants should bring laptops if possible.