The blog’s back

I was shocked – shocked! – to see that my last post on the History of Art department blog was way back in February. You’ll all be able to imagine what’s been getting in the way. If I say I’ve been on extended and simultaneous crash courses on online learning, remote team management, risk assessment for Toronto-based over-80s, and year 6 Maths, RE, History, DT and SPAG (don’t ask), that gives you a taste. You’ll all have been ‘learning’ a great deal too I’m sure! I do hope you’ve been keeping a safe and well as possible and are starting to feel like there might be light at the end of this long tunnel.

The life art historical goes on, and I’ve got lots of departmental and Birkbeck news to share.

The Murray seminars continue online beginning this week, thanks to the stellar efforts of Laura Jacobus. Remember to register in advance and you’ll receive a link to join. Federico Botana is a very good speaker, so do tune in.

21st May:  Federico Botana, A gift for Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici?  The Aritmetica by Filippo Calandri 

Register at:

Two more Murray seminars are happening later this term:

10th June: Clare Vernon, Bohemond’s Enigma: Crusader Architecture in Norman Italy

7th July: Gabriele Neher, Leonardo and Cats

To get advance notice of Murray seminars, including a link for registering, write to with ‘SUBSCRIBE MURRAY’ in the subject line

Arts Week, the School of Arts’ annual May showcase of research and creativity, has reemerged as Arts Weeks (note plural), launching today (!), 19 May, with the author Deborah Levy in conversation. More here, and over the next few weeks.

The April graduation ceremonies, at which many of our students, especially postgraduate students, were meant to be donning their robes and caps and basking in the admiration of their families and friends, have been postoned to the week of 2 November. More here, and here’s a taste of what’s to come (though it may be one at a time for the cap tossing):

Delighted to be able to convey some good news from the department. Two of our colleagues have been awarded coveted Leverhulme Research Fellowships for the 2020-21 academic year. Dorigen Caldwell is pursuing a project on ‘Piety, Patronage and Politics in Early Modern Rome’ and Mara Polgovsky-Ezcurra’s project is ‘The New Life: A Cultural History of Cybernetics in Latin America’. Testament to both the strength and breadth of the department’s research! And more strength and breadth in a project led by Patrizia Di Bello, ‘Women Photographing Architecture: The Royal Photographic Society, knowledge sharing networks and changing gender roles (1890-1939)’ which has received a Training Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The department also had a bumper crop of nominations for the Birkbeck Student Union 2020 Awards, as well as two colleagues shortlisted, and one overall winner! (Pretty impressive for a small department). Suzannah Biernoff emerged victorious as Best Dissertation Supervisor – hurray Suzannah!! Kate Retford was shortlisted for Best Lecturer/Seminar Teacher, and Charlotte Ashby was nominated in that category as well. Warm congrats to all – so well deserved!

You may have heard in the news (if you can bear to turn it on) that universities are struggling, and expecting a downturn in new students in 2020-21. I just Zoomed into a meeting with the higher ups where there was cautious optimism and general relief that applications to study here starting in September are still very healthy indeed. If any students are flexible and resilient, it’s Birkbeck students! We all miss our usual lively open evenings, but they’re still going on online, and you can listen to recorded presentations on our programmes in your own time (available here when you scroll to the bottom) as well. Tonight, 19 May, you can join Patrizia Di Bello at 6pm for an Information Evening focussing on our MA, PG Certificate and PG Diplomas.

And there are upcoming information evenings on

17th June, 6pm, MA/PG Certificate/PG Diploma (with Kate Retford):

25th June, 6pm, Graduate Certificate (with Charlotte Ashy):

Finally, please be in touch with news and contributions for the blog. I won’t promise regular posts for the rest of this term, but I will attempt to get a couple more posted.

I’ll leave you with one of the many funny and creative tweaks on the art historical tradition that have come about in the past couple of months (thanks to Suzannah Biernoff for spotting this).

A mural by street artist Lionel Stanhope on a bridge wall in Ladywell, south-east London, Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

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