Many events – and an important meeting for our MPhil/PhD students…

The end of the Spring term is fast approaching! Only two more weeks to go, and there’s frenetic activity in and around Gordon Square as the Easter vacation looms. One of my main concerns in this blog is to let you know about upcoming events, organised by my colleagues in the department of History of Art, and I have a record number to tell/remind you about today!

Many of the seminars, lectures and conferences which members of staff organise are associated with the Research Centres based in the School of Arts. There’s the Architecture, Space and Society Centre, which held its final event of the term last Friday, when Owen Hopkins came to talk about his new book on Nicholas Hawksmoor. There’s also the History and Theory of Photography Centre, hosting its last seminar of the term this coming Wednesday (9th March, Clore Lecture Theatre, 6-7.30pm). Dr. Jennifer Tucker will be giving a paper entitled ‘Picturing Modernization: Vision, Modernity and the Technological Image in Humphrey Jennings Pandaemonium’. Jennings’s Pandaemonium: Coming of the Machines is a scrapbook compilation of writings from 1660 to 1886, that he collected and annotated between 1938 and his death in 1950. Dr Tucker will be exploring the nature and significance of Pandaemonium as a source in the long history of the visualization of modernity, considering the ways in which science and technology, through the Industrial Revolution, not only shaped the natural and industrial topography, but also informed ideas, language, perceptions, emotions and imagination of the inner landscape. Jennifer Tucker is an historian from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, but she is also currently a Visiting Fellow with the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, until April. This Fellowship scheme allows Birkbeck to host visits by academics working in the broad field of the Humanities from other institutions across the world, involving them in the research activities of the College, fostering important collaborations. Jennifer works on areas of great interest to many colleagues, especially those engaged in research on photography, and the Victorian period. Her first book, Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science (2006; in paperback, 2013) explored the history of debates over photography and visual objectivity in Victorian science and popular culture. As a Fulbright Scholar in the History of Art at the University of York a couple of years ago, she conducted research for her second book-length project, which she has recently completed: Portrait of a Gentleman: The Great Tichborne Trial in the Victorian Visual Imagination.

Also on Wednesday (9th March, 6.30-8pm, Keynes Library), colleagues will be running a panel discussion on ‘Memory and 7/7 at Tavistock Square’. They will be considering the plans to memorialise 7/7 at Tavistock Square, and the possible consequences of these plans for the square’s other memorial traces and markers.


7/7 shook the community at Birkbeck. Two of the bombs on that day exploded a short distance from the College, and one killed a Birkbeck student named Benedetta Ciaccia, studying towards her Foundation Degree in Computer Science. The panel will bring together some of those who were first on the scene and later investigated the bombings, with those responsible for the recent memorial campaign and a number of academics working in the field of memory studies. The event participants will include Philip Nelson, Chair of the 7/7 Tavistock Square Memorial Trust, and David Videcette, former 7/7 Scotland Yard Investigator and Crime Novelist, as well as Dr. Gabriel Koureas from the History of Art department, and Dr. Silke Arnold de Simine from the Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies. If you would like to attend, then please reserve your place on eventbrite.

A couple of the events forthcoming before the end of term are of particular note for those working on and interested in the Renaissance period. Next Tuesday (15th March), of course, we have the Murray Memorial Lecture, when Professor Patricia Rubin will be talking about ‘Bent Elbows, Bare Bottoms, and Bending Meanings: Shifting Perspectives on Viewing the Male Body in Art’, Do book your free place if you haven’t already! In addition, the final in the series of Murray seminars on Medieval and Renaissance Art will be given tonight (7th March, 5pm, Keynes Library) by Dr. Paula Nuttall, speaking about dance and low-life subjects in work by Verrochio. Dr. Nuttall will be looking at Verrocchio’s startling drawings of dancers performing a renaissance dance known as the moresca. Considering the drawings’ relationship to northern imagery and to contemporary Florentine vernacular culture, she will bring new insights to these and other depictions of ‘low life’ subjects.

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It’s a full diary! There’s also, of course, (plug, plug) the conference on the Georgian London Town House which I’ve co-organised with the National Gallery next Thursday, 17th March. But I want to end with a reminder to our current MPhil/PhD students, about the forthcoming meeting for anyone interested in organising the summer postgraduate conference (scheduled for Friday 24th June 2016). This conference, being generously being supported by the London Art History Society, is a great opportunity to get involved in planning, organising and running a research event. Professor Lynn Nead, as Postgraduate Tutor, will be working with a steering group of research students, to devise the programme and timetable. Students at all stages of their doctoral research (although perhaps not those just about to submit their PhDs!), working on all periods and all types of art, are warmly invited to come along to the meeting with Lynn on Monday 14th March, room 222 in Gordon Square. If you are interested, and would like to attend this meeting, then please do get in touch with Anthony Shepherd, the Postgraduate Administrator.

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From Elbows and Bottoms to Leonardo and the London Town House!

A couple of follow ups to my last blog posting to start…

A fortnight ago, I issued a plea to current students to respond to the invitations which have been popping up in inboxes, and to complete the various student surveys which are now live. We are very keen to get your feedback – it’s important to us to elicit the fullest response, from as many students as we possibly can. I confess I do get somewhat competitive about this as Head of Department, as the College sends us weekly updates on how our response rate to the National Student Survey is looking, compared to other departments across Birkbeck. Last week, we were running third, which was a great achievement – but I have aspirations for us to be higher!

I’m delighted also to be able to give you some more information about our upcoming Murray Memorial Lecture, on Tuesday 15th March at 6pm, following my ‘save the date’ notice. We host this biannual lecture in honour of Peter Murray, Professor of History of Art at Birkbeck from the mid 1960s through to 1980. We’ve been honoured with some very distinguished speakers over the years, including Simon Schama, Neil MacGregor, Penelope Curtis and Christopher Frayling. Our speaker next month will be Professor Professor Patricia Rubin, Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She will be delivering a lecture entitled: ‘Bent Elbows, Bare Bottoms, and Bending Meanings: Shifting Perspectives on Viewing the Male Body in Art’. Here’s some more information from Professor Rubin, in case that title isn’t sufficiently enticing in its own right!

As sharp as the crooked elbow and as shapely as the male buttocks can be, these eye-catching body parts can also unhinge fixed readings of their messages in art. Over time their postures have been seen as courtly and camp, as virile and effeminate. Soliciting attention, the nature of that attention raises questions about the meanings that they suggest and that have been suggested over time. Both are put into poses that pose questions about the ways that men look, what they look like and what sort of liking is involved in looking. Rubin picture

The Murray Memorial Lecture is a big event for the History of Art department, bringing together students past and present, together with academic staff past and present, and a variety of friends and colleagues from outside the College. Do follow the eventbite link now, to reserve your free place – all are very welcome!


In my last posting, I alerted you to the first in the Architecture, Space and Society Centre’s new ‘Thinkers in Architecture’ lecture series, being given by Professor Norbert Nussbaum. This time, I’d like to tell you about another new series of events the Centre has just launched: ‘New Books’. These events will engage with important books being published on the history, theory and cultural contexts of architecture. The first is being given by Owen Hopkins, a writer, historian and curator of architecture, and Architecture Programme Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts. On Friday 4th March, at 6pm (Keynes Library), he will be coming to Birkbeck to talk about his new book on Nicholas Hawksmoor and his myths, From the Shadows: The Architecture and Afterlife of Nicholas Hawksmoor, just published by Reaktion. This is a lively and detailed history of Hawksmoor’s work, which also looks at the ways in which it has been seen by a variety of observers over the nearly three centuries since his death. Following Owen’s talk, Professor Barry Curtis from the Royal College of Art will be giving a response. As with the Murray Lecture, the event is free and open to all, but registration is required.



Finally, reminders about two upcoming conferences being organised by Birkbeck and the National Gallery, together with a number of other collaborators. Towards the end of last year, I mentioned that Dr. Juliana Barone, an Associate Research Fellow in the School of Arts, is organising a conference entitled ‘Leonardo in Britain: Collections and Reception’, taking place from 25th to 27th May 2016. I’m delighted to say that tickets are now available for this major event. It will explore the important role and impact of Leonardo’s paintings and drawings in key British private and public collections, and also look at the broader British context of the reception of his art and science, addressing selected manuscripts and the first English editions of his ‘Treatise on Painting’. The conference is taking place in a number of venues, but Birkbeck is hosting the opening lecture, being given by Professor Martin Kemp from the University of Oxford (5.30pm, 25th May, Clore Lecture Theatre): ‘Spinning a yarn or two: Leonardo’s two matching Madonnas’.

The other upcoming conference being organised in collaboration with the National Gallery is very close to my heart – one of my projects! I wrote in my first blog of the year about ‘Animating the Georgian London Town House’, taking place on 17th March 2016, in the Sainsbury Wing Lecture Theatre. I know a number of you have already registered for this event, and it would be great to see lots of familiar faces from Birkbeck in the audience. We’re going to begin the day with a keynote lecture by Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures, speaking about Carlton House. Speakers will then discuss a range of town houses from the period, from grand London ‘palaces’ such as Cleveland House and Norfolk House, through to lesser known residences such as 18, Arlington Street, a Gothic revival town house commissioned by the Countess of Pomfret. The day will end with Drs Adriano Aymonino and Manolo Guerci giving us a two-hander on Northumberland House, built in the early seventeenth century, and demolished in 1874. They will be looking at the tenure of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland  which saw the creation of some of the most lavish interiors of Georgian London. The house also, fascinatingly, became the venue for the Duchess’s private ‘Museum’, which acted as a proto academy for selected artists and connoisseurs. Do come along if you can!

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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….

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Lots of events – and a word about the Association of Art Historians…

It’s the beginning of week four of the Spring term, and I’ve become aware that I’ve finally stopped wishing people a happy new year! A sign that we’re well and truly into 2016.

In the news this week…. Don’t forget the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre seminar tomorrow evening (26th January, 6pm, Keynes Library). Dr. Marta Weiss will be giving what promises to be a fascinating talk, entitled ‘Julia Margaret Cameron: New Discoveries’. The Centre’s activities are organised by my colleagues, Patrizia di Bello and Lynn Nead. Members of staff are also involved in many events outside the department, and I want to take this opportunity to tell you about a couple of things coming up in the diary of one of my impressively energetic colleagues. Gabriel Koureas will be giving a keynote lecture at a forthcoming conference, ‘Masculinity and the Metropolis’, being held at the University of Kent on 22-23 April 2016.

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This interdisciplinary conference is going to take as its starting point the range of complex and contradictory engagements between masculinity and the developing metropolis since the beginning of the twentieth century in order to ask: what do responses to the modern city in visual art, film, and literature tell us about masculinity as it both asserts itself and registers its own anxieties, and subsequent representations of the city? In what ways do these contrasting positive and negative conditions, which encouraged complex responses, fit within the framework of masculinity? Gabriel is also busy co-organising a conference with a couple of colleagues, including Dr. Sophie Hope from the Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies: ‘Troubled Contemporary Art Practices in the Middle East: Post-colonial conflicts, Pedagogies of art history, and Precarious artistic mobilization’. This will take place at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus on 2-4 June 2016, and will focus on the consequences of imported art histories in the Middle East.

It’s not only members of academic staff who are engrossed in event organising though! The newly revitalised departmental History of Art society has been busy, as you’ll see from their facebook page. Regular readers of this History of Art department blog will be familiar with the name of the speaker they’re hosting next week, as he’s kindly provided me with a number of postings – most recently about his work with Crisis. Next week, Gary Haines will be speaking about ‘A Purchase Made a Debt Repaid: The Representation in the Imagination of the Blinded British Soldier of the First World War’.

Do also remind yourself of the current programme of the London Art History Society, whose membership includes many of the department’s students and alumni.


The Society is affiliated to our departmental History of Art Society, and we’re enjoying a recent strengthening of our ties. Last summer, the Society generously established a fund for our MA and MPhil/PhD students, to help support their research expenses – a fund which has proved so popular it has just been used up for this academic year! It has been used to support – amongst many other enterprises – a research trip to the National Media Museum in Bradford, and another to the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. I’m pleased to say that the next two lectures being organised by the Society are both being delivered by academics from the department. On Tuesday 9th February, Kasia Murawska-Muthesius will be giving a talk entitled ‘Artemisia and the bodies of Lucretia’, whilst Suzannah Biernoff will be speaking about ’85 portraits of war’ on Wednesday 9th March.

Finally, a word about the Association of Art Historians. Most of you will already know about this important organisation, which brings together a wide range of art historians – from those studying the subject to those working in schools, universities, museums and galleries. Many of you will already be members – but, if you’re not, then it is well worth considering joining, to get access to a wide range of news and information, events and publications. I particularly recommend the AAH’s Careers in Art History book, which you can either buy in hard copy, or pay to download from their website. It’s packed with useful advice! It’s also worth looking into the funding opportunities which are open to members of the Association – including their important AAH Internship Award. This offers funding to UK-based undergraduate and postgraduate students on part-time or full-time placements or internships within the UK. The Association makes two awards of up to £2,000, towards placement-related expenses such as accommodation, travel and food.

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Happy New Year!

A very happy new year to everyone! I hope you all had great Christmas breaks. The wonderful woolly decorations which have been adorning the front of the School of Arts in Gordon Square for the last few weeks are coming down today, marking the end of the festive season, as we all settle into the new term, and our familiar routines.

There’s already lots of news and events circulating, both about staff and students. I’m delighted here to pass on the success of one of our current MA History of Art with Photography students, Steven Kenny. Steven has won a Royal Photographic Society award for his photograph of a medical simulation model for taking blood. I shall post it below, and hope that everyone’s post-Christmas stomach is up to some visceral imagery! Taking Blood was photographed whilst exploring a hospital’s medical simulation centre, and this is what Steven told us about the image: “On confrontation the object is both strange and compelling. Used as an anatomical tool for teaching doctors, the object, alone and detached, stands as a stark reminder of the body’s reliance on clinical intervention.”

Taking Blood by Steven Kenny

Staff have already been busy organising events for this term. The next Murray Seminar on Medieval and Renaissance Art will be taking place on Wednesday 20th January (5pm, Keynes Library), and the speaker is someone who will be familiar to a good number of you – Dr. Zuleika Marat, who co-led our departmental field trip to Florence last Easter, along with Dr. Joanne Anderson! Do re-read the wonderful blog posting which Joanne wrote for us, to refresh your memory of her tales of Florence. Zuleika will be talking to the title: ‘“I have not seen more precious tombs and burials with greater pomp”: Guariento and the Tomb of Doge Giovanni Dolfin in Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice’. This splendid tomb once consisted of a hanging canopy and tomb by Andrea da San Felice and decorations by the famous painter Guariento. Dr. Murat will be proposing a new hypothesis and a visual reconstruction of this important monument in one of Venice’s most significant locations.

The following week, on Tuesday 26th January, the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre will be holding its next seminar (6pm, Keynes Library). Dr. Marta Weiss will be talking about the new material she discovered while researching the current exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, marking the bicentenary of the birth of Julia Margaret Cameron, 150 years after she first exhibited her work there. Colin Ford (Founding Head, National Museum of Photography, Film and Television [now National Media Museum] Bradford), who has worked extensively on this important photographer, will be responding.



I’m going to finish with some self-serving publicity! As some of you will know, one of my areas of particular research interest is the eighteenth-century British country house, and I co-organised a conference with Dr. Susanna Avery-Quash from the National Gallery on the subject last March: ‘Animating the Eighteenth-Century Country House’. It was a great success, and a pleasure to see familiar faces from Birkbeck in the audience! While we were putting together the programme for this event, Susanna and I began pondering comparative lack of knowledge about and interest in the counterparts to these country estates: the London town houses of the period. Wilton, for example, is much visited and discussed, but we know so much less about the property which the Pembroke family owned in London: Pembroke House. Chatsworth has officially been recognised as one of the country’s favourite national treasures, but most of those who visit it know little of Devonshire House, which the Devonshires once owned in the capital. This is in part because these town houses were often leased, rather than being passed down through generations, as country estates were. But, most critically, many London town houses, including both Pembroke House and Devonshire House, no longer exist, having been demolished in the early twentieth century.

We have therefore organised a follow-up conference: a collaboration between Birkbeck, the National Gallery, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art: ‘Animating the Georgian London Town House’ (17th March, Sainsbury Wing Lecture Theatre, National Gallery). Speakers will be discussing both famous and little-remembered town houses, exploring how these residences were designed, furnished, and ornamented. We will also be considering the significance and function of these properties for owners and their families, and the varied experiences of guests and visitors. Do follow the link to find out more about the great line-up of speakers we’ve secured for the day. I hope we can tempt some of you to book places, and to come along to hear more about this fascinating topic!

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Last day of term before the Christmas break!

It’s the final day of the Autumn term, and most of you on taught courses will already have had your last classes before the Christmas break. I think only those BA and Graduate Certificate students taking Dr. Nick Lambrianou’s level 6 course, ‘Art Writing/Writing Art’, or the MA students on Dr. Nick Lambert’s ‘Art and Photography in the Twenty-First Century’, have classes tonight. Those of you studying that MA option with Nick Lambert will know that he is leaving Birkbeck at Christmas, to take up an exciting new role as Head of Research at Ravensbourne. It’s a wonderful opportunity for Nick, but very sad for all of us in the School of Arts. We raised some glasses and said some words of thanks to Nick after our departmental meeting last week, and here are some nice pictures of him getting his leaving present. (It says much about Nick’s very diverse interests that our resident expert in digital visual culture since 2002 was delighted to receive a beautiful edition of Jung’s The Red Book as his parting gift!)

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And, in other good news… The department has just been able to advertise for two new posts in the History and Theory of Photography/Digital Visual Culture, and in the History and Theory of Architecture. All being well, we should be welcoming two new colleagues into the department by the start of next academic year, and expanding our teaching and research in exciting directions! Colleagues have also had a series of grant successes over the last couple of weeks. Not one, but two members of staff in the department successfully applied for grant awards from the Birkbeck/Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund: Dr. Suzannah Biernoff and Dr. Leslie Topp. Suzannah will be using hers to work on a project entitled Disfigurement: A Cultural Anatomy, whilst Leslie will be researching single rooms. We also learned a couple of days ago that Prof. Lynn Nead has been awarded money from the AHRC Cultural Engagement Fund for a project on ‘The Fallen Woman: Film, Archive, Afterlife’, so that a film can be made around the material of her exhibition at the Foundling. (If you haven’t yet got to see the show, do try and catch it before it closes on 3rd January 2016, and take advantage of the great offer for Birkbeck students of half-price entry, and 30% discount in the café!)

I could keep going ad infinitum! Articles and essays published, lectures and conference papers given (including a paper given by Dr. Kasia Murawska-Muthesius, at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence last month)… But I’ll end with the publication of a new book by a colleague in the department, Dr. Fiona Candlin, entitled Micromuseology.

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Fiona is Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies, but the museums she explores in this book are not major institutions, such as the British Museum or the Louvre. Rather, she’s been researching small, independent, single-subject museums, like the Vintage Wireless Museum, and the Museum of Witchcraft. In this publication, based on lots of field work (conducted in a camper van!), Fiona explores how ‘micromuseums’ challenge our preconceived ideas about what museums are and how they operate. She’s recently given the material she collected for the book to the Bishopsgate Institute, to form the basis of an important new archive – do read on to find out more about this, and about her work more generally. But, before I hand over to Fiona, I would like to wish you all a good Christmas break, and a very happy new year! See you next term…

Fiona Candlin on the Micromuseums Archive at the Bishopsgate Institute

“Over the last few years I’ve been writing on small independent museums, and in the course of my research I travelled backwards and forwards across the British Isles. I’ve made numerous trips to the extremely eerie Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, to Somerset to the surreal Museum of Bakelite, and to the exquisite Glandford Shell Museum in Norfolk. These journeys became even more extensive when I was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship that paid for me to rent a camper van and to drive from London up the east coast of England, on through Scotland to Orkney and then across the Highlands to Skye before crossing to Belfast, down through Ireland, and return via Wales. Along the way I visited museums devoted to subjects as diverse as Victorian science, rural life, early twentieth-century diesel engines, Irish Republican History, lawnmowers, dolls’ houses, shoes, shopping, and stained glass.

At every museum I visited I collected leaflets, postcards, and booklets. This material was important to my research because it is often the only information available on small independent museums – or, as I call them, micromuseums. These tiny venues do not always feature in official lists, they rarely keep catalogues of their holdings or exhibitions, and their websites tend to list little more than opening hours. If micromuseums close, which they frequently do, these leaflets and postcards may be the only trace left behind.

Then, earlier this year I met Stefan Dickers who is archivist at Bishopsgate Institute. The archive specialises in the history of East London, labour and co-operative histories, LGBT, and feminist history. It also holds the papers of Raphael Samuel, whose last book, Theatres of Memory, included long discussions of micromuseums, which he took to be important examples of ordinary people’s historical consciousness and engagement with the past. Stefan and I decided that it would be in keeping with Samuels’ work to open an archive that would document and enable further study of these venues.

I delivered my collection to the Bishopsgate institute in Spring and since then Sarah McBryde, a student on the MA History of Art, catalogued and digitised the material during a work placement, and it is now available online. We are currently promoting the collection, and developing the holdings. To this end, Silvina De Vita and Elsa Izaguirre Lopez, also Birkbeck MA students, have designed a logo and established a Twitter profile. You can follow us and keep abreast of new developments on @Micromuseums and on my feed @FionaCandlin – but, if you happen to have posters, leaflets, postcards from micromuseums, then please do get in touch on and your material could form part of the archive.”




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Read on to find out about an exciting new development in the History of Art department…

Only a fortnight to go until the end of term – marked by the fact that it’s now getting dark even before the corridors, offices and teaching rooms become filled with students arriving to see tutors, and for the start of classes at 6pm! Even though we’re now so close to the start of the Christmas vacation, there are still plenty of exciting events coming up. This evening, Friday 27th November, at 6pm, the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre is hosting the next event in its rich programme. In room 112 in Gordon Square, Thomas Galifot from the Musèe d’Orsay will be speaking ‘About (Some) Women Photographers 1839-1919’. Dr. Patrizia di Bello, Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Photography, who leads the Centre along with Professor Lynn Nead, has been circulating information about this paper with a beautiful detail from a Julia Margaret Cameron photograph of Mrs Herbert Duckworth, from 1867, which I can’t resist including below (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France). Do also follow this link to find out more details about the exhibition at the Musée de l’Orangerie, to which the talk relates.

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In the last week before the Christmas break, the Murray seminar on Medieval and Renaissance Art will host its last speaker of the Autumn term: Dr. Juliana Barone, an Associate Research Fellow in the School of Arts, here at Birkbeck. Dr. Barone is an internationally acclaimed Leonardo scholar, and is currently organising a major conference on ‘Leonardo in Britain: Collections and Reception’, which will take place from 25th to 27th May 2016. I’ll keep you posted with details of this event – the result of an exciting collaboration between Birkbeck, the National Gallery, and the Warburg Institute. For the Murray seminar, on Thursday 10th December (5pm, room 112), Dr. Barone will be speaking about ‘Leonardo, Poussin and Errard: new ideals in the edition princeps of the Treatise on Painting’.

Juliana Barone pic

I will now hand over the rest of this blog to Jess Stratford, who joined us on the BA History of Art with Curating in October. Jess and her co-students – Camila Florez and Selina McKay – have been working hard over the last few weeks to get the Birkbeck Art History Society (BAHS) up and running again. This is wonderful news! The London Art History Society, affiliated to the Birkbeck Art History Society, has been providing a rich array of events for many years. Sue Stern, from the LAHS, was at our induction evenings in October to tell all our new students about their activities – do take a look at their website to find out details. The department’s student society has, however, been dormant of late, and it’s wonderful to see a group of energetic new students bringing it back to life! Do read on -and I particularly draw your attention to the gathering at the Student Central Juice Bar on Saturday, 28th November…

The Birkbeck Art History Society (BAHS), by Jess Stratford

“I would like to announce the reinstitution of the Birkbeck Art History Society (BAHS)!

The response to the Departmental email, which was sent round last week, has been fantastic – quite overwhelming.  Your enthusiasm makes our job so much easier.  Birkbeck Art History Society offers so many opportunities and member input will inform our direction.  But right now, I want to tell you about our immediate plans.

The first meeting/organised visit of the Society took place on Thursday 26th November. A large group of us went to a lecture at the British Museum on Early Medieval Celtic Art. We will be sharing our experiences with you on the Society’s Facebook page and Twitter feed (see below for links).

So, what are we?

The Birkbeck Art History Society is a multi-platform community for people to further their understanding and appreciation of the History of Art. We will provide a forum (both physical and online) for members to discuss their interests in Art History. We will do this through planned discussions, talks, trips and other forms of events that might pop up (we are finding a way to have cinema evenings as well!). We are also in the process of creating a website and, once that is live, there will also be a discussion forum open only to members.

The Society will organise at least one trip a month (for which there has been a lot of interest) and a talk/ lead discussion/meeting, also once a month. We will try to cover as many areas as possible, and keep the subject matter varied. We are aware of the nature of Birkbeck students’ lifestyles and will try to organise events at times suitable to those in full time employment – evenings and weekends where feasible.

As well as these events, members will have access to our website (coming soon), which will offer a calendar of arts events and exhibitions throughout London. We are compiling an online directory of London based arts institutions, and their events, so you can keep up with the wider arts world and take from it what you will.

We will be running a blog with stories about galleries from outside London, from places ranging from Yorkshire to Colombia. Birkbeck is an international university: why not take advantage of our wide experience? If you have a gallery you are passionate about, we would love to include your post.

In the meantime here are our upcoming events:

  • Saturday 28th November: we will be at the Student Central Juice Bar to answer any questions and take subscriptions (membership is £12 a year). The Juice Bar is on the first floor, to the right. There will be signs.
  • Saturday 9th January: there will be a trip to the Institute of Contemporary Art, to the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2015 -an exhibition of work by 37 of the most promising art emerging talents from UK art schools. This year the themes are: gender, labour, value and consumption. Details of the trip will follow.

Information about future events will be available on our Facebook page at

Follow us on Twitter: @BirkbeckAHS

You can also sign up to our mailing list: send an email with your name and email address to, saying that you would like to be put on the mailing list.

Hope to see you soon! BAHS”

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New Graduates – and lots of events!

I hope everyone had a good reading week, and was able to take the opportunity of a little time away from classes to catch up with themselves! On the Wednesday of that week, we enjoyed celebrating the successes of our BA graduates, who completed their studies in the summer, and who came back to Bloomsbury to don gowns and hats and receive their degrees! It was lovely to meet with them, their families and friends, and to reflect on their achievements. Here are some rather fuzzy snaps taken on my phone – if anyone has some better images, do email them to me, and I’ll put them on another blog!



We talked about happy moments – when one student discovered she’d received a distinction on her dissertation – when we’d been able to inform two finalists that the BA exam board had awarded them prizes for their dissertations! Sue Prior received the Annabelle Rickets award for a BA dissertation on art or architecture before c.1800, whilst Sarah Thacker was given the Mo Price award for a BA dissertation on visual culture after c.1800. We also reflected on those more difficult times – the hurdles that so many students on our programmes have to face at some point or other, trying to juggle studies with family life and work. Many of the graduates in that hall last week were rightly feeling very proud indeed of having made it through tricky patches in the last three or four years of their lives – and we were feeling very proud on their behalfs! This is a good moment to remind all students on our taught programmes that it’s so important to keep your personal tutor abreast of any difficulties you’re experiencing, and to make appointments to talk through options if you’re ever struggling. You can now double check who your personal tutor is on your student record.

We have a cornucopia of events coming up! Here’s a selection of what members of staff are up to and have organised in the next few weeks.

*           The next paper in the Murray seminar on Medieval and Renaissance Art is coming up at 5pm on Thursday 19th November (room 112, Gordon Square). This seminar series began last year, and has been going from strength to strength, attracting academics and postgraduate students from other institutions in London and beyond, as well as our own community. Dr. Laura Jacobus will be looking at five generations of women who worshipped in the Arena Chapel in Padua, asking what insights we can gain when we place them at the centre of our enquiry. She’s come up with the engaging title of Four Weddings and a Funerary Chapel: a brief ‘herstory’ of the Arena Chapel.

Laura's pic

*           Dr. Dorigen Caldwell co-organises the Birkbeck/UCL Rome lecture series, and has alerted me to the next event coming up in their programme. On Friday 27th November, at 6pm, Dr. Helen Langdon will be giving a talk entitled ‘Salvator Rosa: Magic and Science in 1660s Rome’. Dr. Langdon’s work on art in early modern Rome includes her influential book, Caravaggio: a Life (1998). Her lecture will be looking at Rosa’s late paintings, and setting them in the context of the scientific world in Rome of the 1660s. It will take place in room 101 in 30 Russell Square, and is free – but do book your place.

Rome Lecture 27 November

*           A new exhibition, Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa, opens in the Peltz Gallery in the School of Arts building today. It’s curated by Annie Coombes, our Professor of Material and Visual Culture, and she’s been busy installing it over the last few days. It’ll be running until 22nd January, and is not to be missed. Annie’s exhibition focuses on the struggle for self-representation by those affected by the virus during the worst period of AIDS denialism under former President Thabo Mbeki from 1999 to 2003. It explores the way fine art and the process of print-making, painting and other creative practices produced effective therapeutic treatments for HIV/AIDS sufferers and enabled proactive memory work to be performed as a legacy for bereaved families and children. As well as the display itself, there is also a rich programme of events – including a conference on 7th December entitled Women and HIV/AIDS in South Africa: Medicine, Art, Activism. Do take a look at the website to find out full details of everything going on.

*           Other colleagues are also, as ever, giving seminar and conference papers, lectures, and taking part in panel discussions. One coming up soon is Dr. Gabriel Koureas’s lecture entitled ‘Male Body Terrors’, being given at Senate House Library on at 1pm on Tuesday 17th November, to coincide with the exhibition ‘Illumination—How the Visual Captures the Imagination’. The heroic male body and associated ideals of masculinity have been challenged in recent years by the body of the male terrorist. However, Gabriel will be arguing that this recent phenomenon of male body terror can be found in other instances. One example he’ll be discussing is Robert Maplethorpe’s photographic work and his depiction of gay male sexual encounters, which provided a challenge at the time to perceived ideas of masculinity. His talk will attempt to juxtapose the male body of the terrorist and gay man in order to discuss transgressions of masculinities. For full details and to book a place, please follow this link.

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Reading week is nigh…

So, we have officially reached the mid point of the Autumn term, and those of you on taught programmes will, I am sure, be looking forward to reading week next week. It’s always a very welcome chance, after five weeks of classes, to catch up with reading, research, writing, and to take stock before embarking on the second part of the term. You’ll also not have been able to forget that it’s Halloween this weekend, thanks to the wonderful woolly installation currently featured on the front of the School of Arts!


This is the expert handiwork of Claire Adams and Catherine Catrix, two of our Assistant School Managers, and I hope you’ve had a chance to admire it on your way in and out of the building. Students who’ve been with us for a year or more will have already been able to enjoy previous knitted displays in honour of Easter and Christmas, and some of us have prized souvenirs at home (an Easter chick in my case!).

Also up and coming is our Graduation ceremony, which takes place next Wednesday, on 4th November. Those who have successfully made their way through the three years of the full-time undergraduate programme, or the four years of the part-time course, will be able proudly to claim their BAs. We look forward to seeing our new graduates donning their gowns and, I sincerely hope, indulging in the requisite throwing of the hats in the air.

One very last reminder about those National Art Passes…. The Art Fund has extended the deadline a little, until Monday 2nd November, so, if you haven’t already got round to signing up, there are a few days left to claim your free pass, and to start enjoying free admission to museums and galleries, and discounts on entry to exhibitions.

To end, I’d like to tell you a little about work which Dr. Sarah Thomas, Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Art in the department, has been doing with Tate Britain. Sarah has been involved in their forthcoming ‘Artist and Empire’ exhibition, which will be opening on 25th November. As part of this work, she has co-convened a major international conference to co-incide with the show, along with Emily Senior from the department of English and Humanities at Birkbeck, Carol Jacobi from Tate Britain, and colleagues at King’s College London (Students who have been with us for some time may well remember Carol, from her many years teaching for this department!). The conference will take place on 24-26 November 2015, and you can find further information and details on how to book tickets here. Scholars, curators and artists from Britain, Australia, the US, Canada, Denmark and beyond will be gathering to consider the art created under the conditions of the British Empire, its cultural legacies, and its future in museum and gallery displays. The conference will take the historic opportunity of the associated exhibition (which will feature diverse artists from the sixteenth century to the present day), to discuss the cosmopolitan character of objects and images, and the way geographical, cultural and chronological dislocations have in many instances obscured, changed or suppressed their history, significance and aesthetics. It will also explore how approaches to contemporary art, archives, curation and collecting can help develop new ways to look at them now. It promises to be a fascinating event! (This conference has been generously supported by Culture at King’s College London, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Birkbeck School of Arts, The British Association of Victorian Studies, The Association of Art Historians, Creative Victoria and the Australia Council for the Arts.)

Enjoy reading week!

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The School of Arts in Open House weekend

I’m pleased to be handing over much of this week’s blog posting to my colleague, Dr. Leslie Topp, who researches and teaches the History of Architecture. In between running courses such as her current level 6 option module on ‘Spaces in Modernity’, co-organising the Architecture, Space and Society Research Centre, and much else besides, Leslie tweets, so do follow her @LeslieTopp. We’re not doing badly for tweeters in the department these days! Other colleagues who are currently beating me in their deftness with social media are Dr. Fiona Candlin, Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies, who tweets about her fascinating research into micromuseums @FionaCandlin, and Dr. Clare Vernon, who has just joined us from the Warburg Institute as Lecturer in Medieval Art @drclarevernon. Do also follow the department itself on twitter, @BirkbeckHoA, maintained by the leader of our History of Art admin team, Clare Thomas.

Leslie has put together an account of Open House weekend in the School of Arts building in Gordon Square, including some great quotes from the History of Art students who so kindly volunteered to show visitors round on that Saturday and Sunday in September. But, before I hand over to her, a couple of quick reminders and a notice. One reminder is, of course and predictably, about the free art passes for all History of Art students! The deadline is coming up at the end of next week, 23rd October – so get them while you can. The other is about the current exhibition in the Peltz Gallery, just off the foyer in the Arts building in Gordon Square. Passing Encounters: Recent Photographs by Christopher Jonas ends tomorrow (17th October), so do go in to see the display if you can before it closes. The notice is just to say that I am now going to settle into my normal blogging routine of once a fortnight, so I shall be back in two weeks…

Birkbeck History of Art students welcome the public on Open House weekend

Open House London

‘On the weekend of 19-20 September, we opened the doors of the School of Arts building in Gordon Square to the general public, as part of Open House London. Open City, a charity promoting free public access to London’s rich architecture, historic and contemporary, has been organising Open House weekends every September since 1992.  Convinced that there’d be demand to see our fascinating building, we participated for the first time in 2013, and received over 200 visitors.

This year, the numbers exceeded our wildest expectations, and our brilliant student volunteers guided over 500 visitors through the building.  BA History of Art student Eva Hoog provided friendly and super-efficient oversight, and twelve volunteers from the BA, MA and PhD programmes in the department led and assisted on tours, answered questions, and took care of bookings on the front desk.  A training session a few days before, and a fact sheet covered the early nineteenth-century history of the terrace in the context of the planning of Bloomsbury; the early twentieth-century history of the building as the home of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell and as a gathering place for the Bloomsbury Group; and the early twenty-first-century transformation of the back of the building into the RIBA award-winning cinema and surrounding spaces by Surface Architects.  We were very lucky to have one of the architects of the cinema spaces, Andy MacFee, at the training session, to give a mesmerising and very useful account of the origins of his ideas for the space and his working method.  On the weekend itself, visitors, who had come to see the building because of their interest in one of these aspects, were stunned by the fact that all three layers of history were present in such a relatively small space.  Additional tours of ‘The Wider Gordon Square’, offered by Birkbeck PhD graduate Victoria McNeile and her colleague architectural historian Christopher Woodward, added yet another dimension to this rich mix.

The students involved have been in touch with their impressions of the experience.  They loved learning more about the building they’d been studying in, and had not realised what a fascinating and multi-layered place it was. They also loved the experience of speaking to a group – despite some inevitable nerves in the lead-up, it was fun and very satisfying.

I’ll hand the floor to them’:

“EVERYONE was very impressed by the Cinema and everything related to it.”

“After three years at BBK – HoA, I finally discovered the life behind the lecture rooms. Fascinating, doesn’t quite describe it.”

“One of the participants in the group I guided referred to the space around the cinema as ‘entering the uncanny space of Alice in Wonderland’: pink/mustard/yellow/fuchsia colours for corridors and walls which are not straight, but at an angle. Certainly not your run of the mill Odeon cinema.”

“I paused the group in a corridor near the staircase with GO3 on my left. A corridor I termed ‘The most historical corridor in London’. The group stared around them and looked at me as if they had doubts over who was leading them around the building … I then pointed out what the space of G03 once hosted, the front door which was once red, and the wall that once had paintings by Juliet Margaret Cameron on its now austere surface. The most humble but beautiful object and one of most interesting in this space was the dumb waiter, installed probably by Keynes. Once I highlighted this it bathed in the light of many mobile phone camera flashes for its moment of fame.”

“A high percentage of visitors told me that the BBC series ‘Life in Squares’ on the Bloomsbury set had inspired them to visit Gordon Square. The most witty description used by the volunteers was that ‘they lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles’…Many visitors commented on how lucky we were to study in such an environment…I can honestly say, and I am sure the rest of the volunteers would agree, that it was, in all, very rewarding.”

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Upcoming events – and History of Art at ‘Crisis’…

(That’s ‘Crisis’, as in the national charity for single homeless people, not a statement of doom for the discipline!)

Two weeks of term under our belts, and a sense that everyone’s starting to settle in to the new academic year… I do hope that you’ve been taking up the brilliant offer I advertised in my last blog, of free national art passes for all History of Art students at Birkbeck! This is open to every student in the department, whether on the Certificate, Graduate Certificate or MPhil/PhD programmes, or on any of our BAs or MAs. If you haven’t as yet, then please do follow the link to sign up before the deadline of 23rd October. The discounts which you’ll be able to get on exhibition tickets, together with the free entry to over 200 charging museums and galleries, really are too good to miss! Also, don’t forget about the perk which Professor Lynn Nead so kindly arranged for Birkbeck students keen to see her exhibition on The Fallen Woman at the Foundling Museum. Half-price entry to the show, and a 30% discount in the café!

It may still be early in the Autumn term, but there’s already lots going on. Two events are coming up later this month, which will be of interest to many of you….

–           my colleagues in what we always refer to as ‘the early period’ run the Murray seminar on Medieval and Renaissance Art. This seminar series is one of a number of activities supported by an important Bequest, established in memory of Professor Peter Murray. The first speaker in the series this term is, I’m delighted to say, Dr. Robert Maniura – so, if you missed hearing him give the opening paper at his conference on ‘Frontiers of Fifteenth-Century Art’, do take this opportunity to hear him speak about his research. Robert will be considering Rogier van der Weyden’s famous image of St Luke drawing the Virgin Mary in his paper, entitled ‘Rogier van der Weyden, Portraiture and Flesh’, in room 112 in Gordon Square, at 5pm on Thursday 22nd October.


Interpretations of this picture often concentrate on its significance for painters, but tend to overlook the familiarity which artists’ clients may have had with the artistic practices shown. Robert’s paper will explore the implications of this for our understanding of the portraiture of the period.

–           other colleagues, from the department and across the College, who specialise in the field of architecture, co-organise the Architecture, Space and Society Research Centre. They have organised a one-day colloquium on the topic of ‘Architecture in Time: The Temporal Conditions of Design’ (Friday 23rd October 2015, 10am-5pm). Do follow this link to find out more about and register for the day, which will bring time to the fore as a creative force in design. The full price is £35, but all students are offered a special rate of £15.


I shall end this blog by posting a piece which has kindly been written by Gary Haines, one of our many dynamic PhD students, who works with Dr. Suzannah Biernoff on representations of the blinded British soldier of the First World War. This is an account of the work which the History of Art department has been doing with Crisis, led by Gary and Dr. Leslie Topp.

‘Birkbeck at Crisis’, by Gary Haines

‘Recently I found myself talking to a group of strangers about ‘What is Art?’. This discussion went on for two hours. This was not a side effect of studying History of Art at PhD level, but part of a series of workshops I am lucky enough to be involved with, working in tandem with Crisis, the charity for single homeless people. The aim of these workshops is to encourage others to go to university by taking the university to them.

Back in July 2013, Birkbeck’s Department of History of Art and the widening access team ran an ‘Art Cafe’ at the Crisis Skylight centre for four days. This was followed by a series of information sessions on taking the first steps into university study in the History of Art. Four Crisis members enrolled in the Certificate in History of Art in September 2013 and January 2014, due to these sessions.

In December 2013, Dr. Leslie Topp encouraged me to become involved and, the following May, we launched ‘Final Fridays at Crisis’. This course was run on the last Friday of the month at the Crisis Skylight centre in Commercial Street, throughout May to August. The idea of the course was to bring university style lectures/seminars directly to Crisis members, hopefully breaking down a few barriers along the way.

‘Final Fridays at Crisis’ introduced Crisis members to subjects such as Outsider Art, Architectural History, Art and the Market and the History of the East End. It also discussed study skills, how to deal with university admin, funding and how to take that daunting first step into further education.

The classes were well attended, lots of questions were asked and many members went away saying they wanted to come back again. I also found out recently that one of the members who attended is off to study textile design at university this year.

Some months ago, I was once again approached to undertake some workshops for Crisis members. This time, it was for their ‘Art in Crisis’ festival, which showcases the artistic talents of their members.

Then, last month, I co-ordinated a series of workshops and lectures for Crisis members, under the heading ‘Birkbeck at Crisis’. I spoke on a number of subjects, including ‘What is Art’ and  ‘An intro to Abstract Art’. A discussion on working in or studying art was also arranged, and Katie Brookes, Vikki Jessop and Yvonne Ng all gave great talks. These courses were received well by the members and I hope to return to Crisis again to follow them up.

I feel that it is vitally important that we remember that it is possible to learn outside the lecture room, and how daunting the thought of going to university can be for some people.

I am passionate about university as a route of progression as I took this step after nearly ten years out of work. If the fates had rolled the dice a different way I could easily have been a member of Crisis.

The Crisis members come from a wide variety of backgrounds, some with little education, others with a lot. There is no such thing as a ‘homeless person’. The idea of these workshops was to remind us of that, as well as to remind them. Some of the most challenging academic discussions I have had have taken place in these workshops, with these men and women.

Further education changed me and shaped me. It can literally change your life. We know that, but we need to tell more people that. And we need to shout it even louder these days.’

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Free Art Passes for all History of Art students at Birkbeck!

So, we’ve reached the end of the first week of the academic year, and all the inductions have been held! The final group of students to be welcomed to the department for the first time were those embarking on the BA in History of Art and the BA in History of Art with Curating, who we met on Wednesday evening for introductory talks, chats in personal tutor groups, and, of course, a few glasses of wine and some nibbles. It’s been good to meet all our new students over the last couple of weeks, and to put faces to names we’re familiar with from application forms and email correspondence. I hope you all enjoy your first classes on your courses – or, for our new MPhil/PhD students, your initial meetings with your supervisors and fellow students as you embark on your programmes of research.

Most of our continuing students on taught programmes will already have had at least one class this week, and will be finding out more about the module(s) they are studying this year. I met those BA and Graduate Certificate students taking my level 6 option course, ‘Portraiture in England in the Long Eighteenth Century’ for the first time yesterday evening. I always particularly enjoy those first sessions, where you get to meet the group you’ll be working with, and to think about the visual material and themes you’ll be covering across the course.


I am very pleased to announce a great opportunity for all History of Art students in the department in this blog posting! Those of you who were here this time last year will remember that we were contacted by the Art Fund, with a generous offer of free student national art passes. I am delighted to be able to say that they emailed me earlier this week, to let me know that they are making the offer again! This is open to ALL students in the History of Art department, whether studying for a Certificate, BA, Graduate Certificate, MA or MPhil/PhD. All you need to do is to follow this link and sign up BEFORE 23 OCTOBER. Your free card will be sent directly to you.

Pulled up Card 6 v2 (2)

Many of you will already know about the Art Fund and will have enjoyed the benefits of one of their passes – but, for those who haven’t, your pass will get you 50% off many major exhibitions, as well as free entry to 230 charging museums and galleries across the UK for the next 12 months. You’ll also receive exclusive shop, cafe and catalogue offers, and regular e-newsletters. If you download the Art Fund’s free Art Guide app, it will help you to locate and to create a wish list of your favourite exhibitions and venues.

Do please follow the link and sign up as soon as you can! It’s a great offer – and also important that we have a good take up, to show our appreciation.


One of the main purposes of this blog is to let you know about the activities of staff and students in the department, so I shall finish with a couple of news items

–           Dr. Kasia Murawska-Muthesius, one of our Associate Lecturers who teaches on a range of programmes in the department, told me a few days ago about the publication of a new book she has just co-edited, with Piotr Piotrowski.  It’s called From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum, published by Ashgate, and it brings together the work of museum professionals and academics to examine the theoretical concept of the critical museum, using case studies of engaged art institutions from different parts of the world. Sadly, Piotr, Kasia’s co-editor and a leading Polish art historian, died in May this year, and the launch of the book at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, on 9th September, was devoted to his memory.

–           Kasia’s new book reaches beyond the usual focus on western Europe, America, and ‘the World’, to include voices from, as well as about, eastern European institutions, which have rarely been discussed in museum studies books so far. This gives me a pleasingly effective segue to news of a recent major international conference, organised here at Birkbeck, by Dr. Robert Maniura! Many of you will know Robert, an expert on the art of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, and my predecessor as Head of Department. Robert is in the second year of research leave, working on a major project on the art of this period, part of which has been funded by a British Academy Fellowship. Do have a look at his blogsite to find out more. The conference was called ‘Frontiers of Fifteenth-Century Art’, and it sought to widen our focus beyond the seminal and much discussed art of Italy and the Netherlands from this period, and to draw attention to currently neglected areas of central and eastern Europe. I was able to drop in to hear Robert’s opening paper, and was delighted to spot the familiar faces of many Birkbeck students and alumni in the audience.

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Welcome to the new academic year!

Welcome to the new academic year in the History of Art department at Birkbeck College! For those of you who are new to this blog, I shall introduce myself. I’m Dr. Kate Retford, currently Head of History of Art, and I set up this blogsite around a year ago. I established it for students in the department, to let them know about the latest activities of staff and students, and to keep everyone up to date with the latest news and events. I write most of the postings, but I’m also very pleased to be able to put up pieces by other people. Last year, for example, Sarah McBryde, one of our MA History of Art students, told us about her experiences working as Production Manager on the Mike Leigh film, Mr Turner; Gary Haines, who is working on a PhD on the visual and cultural representation of the Blinded British Soldier of the First World War with Dr. Suzannah Biernoff, wrote a piece about Access, disability and Birkbeck; whilst Dr. Laura Jacobus shared her thoughts on the ups and downs of being on research leave. If you would like to write something for this blogsite over the academic year, then do email me. Contributions will be very welcome! I shall aim to do a posting every week for the first few weeks of the academic year, and then put something up fortnightly. Please do subscribe using the box on the right, as then each post will come direct to you via email. entrance cropped This is always a busy, but exciting time of year! It’s great to see those who’ve already been studying on our Certificate, Graduate Certificate, BA, MA and MPhil/PhD programmes again, returning after the vacation. I hope you’ve all had a good break over the summer, and are looking forward to the new year. And it’s very nice indeed to be welcoming all of our new students! Last night, we met with those starting on our MA programmes in History of Art and Museum Cultures – tomorrow, our Graduate Certificate students have their induction – we meet those embarking on MPhil/PhD research next Tuesday – and, the following day, I and my colleagues will be delighted to welcome our new BA History of Art and BA History of Art with Curating students at their first event. I do hope you all settle in well over the next few weeks, and that you enjoy your first experiences of studying with us, and getting to know your new colleagues as well as members of the academic and administrative teams. I’m always proud to be able to tell students what a friendly and caring place the department and School are, and you’ll find there’s lots of support around, as you get to grips with your new programme of study. It’s always a challenge, whether you’ve just completed a previous qualification and are moving up a level, or whether you’re returning to study after a period away from education. We are very much here to help. Surface-Birkbeck-04 With my next blog, I’ll tell you more about recent events and activities in and around Birkbeck – including Open House weekend, when over 500 visitors came through the doors at Gordon Square to be shown round by a dedicated team of our students – but I want to let you know about a couple of exhibitions before I sign off today.

*             One is very close to hand – in the Peltz Gallery in the School of Arts. Passing Encounters: Recent Photographs by Christopher Jonas has just opened, and will be running until 17th October. Do take a look, on your way in or out of the building – you’ll find the gallery just behind the reception desk.

*             In my final blog of last year, I wrote about an exhibition on which Professor Lynn Nead has been working. I’m delighted to say that The Fallen Woman opens today, and can be seen at the Foundling Museum until 3rd January 2016. It includes a rich range of work by artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Richard Redgrave, George Frederic Watts and Thomas Faed, alongside popular visual media, including newspaper illustrations, stereoscopes and lantern slides. I’m particularly looking forward to a sound installation by the artist/musician Steve Lewinson, especially commissioned for the exhibition, which offers a new interpretation of the Foundling’s archive materials, and brings to life the voices of those women who had to apply to the hospital to take in their babies. I’m also delighted to say that Birkbeck students can get half-price entry if they show their student card at the ticket desk at the Museum – not to mention a 30% discount in their very nice café!

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