On the 28th March 2012, The Art History Department held its first Art History in Progress session in a delightfully airy and spacious room in The Humanities Building, University Park. All PhD candidates (and staff members) from the department were invited to attend, with the premise being that rarely do we all have the chance to find out about the research being conducted within the department, beyond our immediate circle of supervisors/supervisees and colleagues. The sessions would therefore offer a place for us all to familiarise ourselves with everyone’s work and to informally offer our own opinions and ideas in response. The outcome of this, we hoped, would be to encourage termly/monthly (weekly seemed ambitious… ) meetings which would eventually develop into informal talks or debates, where people could practice upcoming papers, dissect difficult issues, and generally reinforce the sense of commune in our small research collective.
The agenda for the initial meeting was fairly unstructured in order to encourage a conversational atmosphere, but we soon slipped into a “you talk, we’ll listen, next person” format, which ultimately allowed everyone chance to talk for as long as they wanted. It was certainly useful to hear how everybody’s work was progressing and undoubtedly highlighted the diversity of our research approaches. The meeting also acted as a means for us to offer ideas for future sessions and modes of interaction which would allow us to promote our own activities at conferences and beyond. It was suggested that we make a trip to London to visit The Palace of Westminster (where James Ford is conducting his CDA) or to Tate Britain (partners in another CDA with Hayley Morris), or even just to convene in a pub somewhere to discuss our research (in a very academic and serious fashion) over a few drinks. Mini-paper presentations or novel ways of presenting our work (in timed-slide presentations akin to PechaKucha sessions) were also proposed, as was the creation of this: a blog.
The beauty of blogging means that we can create a platform that is communal, accessible and above all easy (on the eye and on time), so the community of the department doesn’t disintegrate given its far reaching geographical range: from Nottingham, Birmingham, Hertfordshire, Manchester, London, Italy and back again. This blog means we can communicate with each other without having to see each other’s ugly mugs! In all seriousness, this isn’t a substitute for meeting in the flesh but an additional tool for communicating our experiences, and one which will allow us to keep up-to-date, as-and-when we want to. As a result, we would also attend the termly Art History in Progress meetings armed with at least a small degree of knowledge about other people’s work and activities, before delving into the mini-papers and presentations.
Hopefully this blog will prove engaging and useful to those outside of the department, the university and Nottingham, too!