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AHRC 2018 Advent Calendar
We're using the festive season to take a look back at some of the arts and humanities research highlights from 2018. From the Forgotten Female Composers partnership with the BBC to the search for the UK's favourite book about nature and a major new investment in the creative industries, each of the advent windows is a snapshot of the amazing breadth of work that our researchers are doing.
A collaboration between BBC Radio 3 and the AHRC which shone new light on the significant achievements of five forgotten female composers, came to a crescendo on International Women's Day, in a very special concert.
The previously unrecorded works of the forgotten female composers were performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra at a special concert on Thursday, 8 March 2018. The concert, which was broadcast live via BBC Radio 3, gave audiences the opportunity to listen to music that they’ve would have never otherwise had access to.Find out more
The UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund brings together leading researchers and businesses to tackle the big societal and industrial challenges. One of those challenges is 'Audience of the Future', which hopes to revolutionise how we experience events, live performances and exhibitions by creating immersive experiences, using augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies.
A new £10 million centre, The StoryFutures Academy, will support the development of cutting-edge creative training and research programmes in immersive storytelling. It will be part-funded through the AHRC-led Creative Industries Clusters Programme.Find out more
Collaboration is key to designing research projects with real impact, as one AHRC-funded project demonstrated in October this year.
The four-year Curious Traveller project has been looking into travel to Wales and Scotland in the eighteenth century, focusing on the writer Thomas Pennant, and it culminated in a major collaborative exhibition at Dr Johnson's House museum in London.
Dr Johnson and Thomas Pennant were contemporaries and both wrote about travel in the United Kingdom. But while Dr Johnson remains a household name, Pennant - who was widely acclaimed at the time he wrote - has largely been forgotten.
“I think from [the museum's] point of view, this was a new angle on Dr Johnson. For us, it was nice to bring the two writers together and celebrate them in the context of one another,” says Dr Mary-Anne Constantine, reader and Curious Traveller's project leader at the University of Wales.Find out more
Why do we fight? And what happens to us when we stop? These deceptively simple questions are at the heart of About A War, a remarkable feature-length documentary that emerged from an AHRC-funded project exploring the Lebanese Civil War.
The research team were interested in the power of film to communicate with both an academic and non-academic audience, and the film was screened in Oxford, 27 February 2019 at an event hosted by the writer Will Self.
“The film is a record of what happened and also exemplary testimony to what happens in armed conflict – and what happens when that conflict is over,” says Daniele Rugo, a filmmaker, scholar and Senior Lecturer in Film at Brunel University, London.Find out more
In August the AHRC reconfirmed its very substantial commitment to funding doctoral research through a new round of Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs).
Doctoral Training Partnerships are block grants made to consortia of research organisations. They support postgraduate studentships across the breadth of the AHRC’s subject remit.
AHRC-funded PhD student Stacey Kennedy's PhD investigates the roles of black and ethnic minority (BME) women in the contemporary art scene. She's pictured above, in front of paintings by Evans Mbugua, at the 1:54 African Art Fair, in conversation with collector Bendu Cooper, Director of the Gallery of African Art, London.
Six young academics from across the UK were able to take part in TV PhD for the first time this August this year.
The project was a new collaboration between AHRC and the Edinburgh International Television Festival (ETF) that will allow doctoral students to attend the Festival.
This training and mentoring programme is intended to help them get work in - or with - the television industry and provides a unique opportunity for training and mentoring tailored to support them in their research and future careers.Find out more
One month ago, 11 November 2018, the World marked the 100th anniversary of World War One.
The centenary represented a significant act of commemoration both in the UK and internationally. The Imperial War Museum (IWM) has led activities and the AHRC, in partnership with IWM, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the BBC and other organisations, has continued to ensure that arts and humanities research plays a central role in the commemoration by bringing new perspectives and interpretations to bear on our understanding of the War and its legacy.
Main image: Tommy, statue by Ray Lonsdale. Credit: Tim Withnall on Flickr by CC2.0Find out more
From the end of Roman rule in Britain to the Norman Conquest of England, this year's major British Library exhibition on the Anglo-Saxons has allowed visitors to discover the Anglo-Saxons, who they were, where they came from, their culture, and their influence on modern-day Britain.
In this interview AHRC funded PhD student Becky Lawton talked to us about her passion for medieval manuscripts and how she was involved in the exhibition.Find out more
On November 29 2018 Stephen Kinnock, MP used a parliamentary event hosted by the The Arts and Humanities Research Council to call for a 'chief government linguist' to provide strategic oversight across modern languages in the UK.
The event was part of The Open World Research Initiative (OWRI), which is a major AHRC investment of £16 million in four major research programmes that will help demonstrate the value of modern languages in an increasingly globalised research environment.
These projects will help showcase the crucial role that languages play, not just within arts and humanities but also on a wider scale in relation to key contemporary issues.Find out more
Living with Machines is a major new five year inter-disciplinary research project led by the British Library, the Alan Turing Institute, and four partner universities that will use data science and artificial intelligence to analyse the human impact of the industrial revolution.
Beginning in late November 2018 the aims of the project are twofold: Firstly to use state-of-the-art technology to sift through very large quantities of data in the form of nineteenth-century newspapers and census data.
The other side is the development of a new research paradigm that will close the gap between the computational sciences and the arts and humanities
“We are hoping to create a space between the two cultures; a space that is filled with shared understanding, practices and norms of publication,” says Dr Ruth Ahnert, principal investigator on the project.
Today, 2 December 2018, marks the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery which focuses on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.
A recently published AHRC publication, 'Slavery past and present' examines how arts and humanities research is shaping contemporary understanding of historic and modern Slavery. The publication looks at how AHRC-funded is changing the debate around slavery past and present, and highlights how the arts and humanities can provide tools with which to address the problem of slavery in the present and to come to terms with its legacy from the past.Download the publication
In January 2018 Chris Packham's book Fingers in the Sparkle Jar was voted Britain's favourite piece of nature writing in an online pole organised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
In total 7,300 votes were cast for 10 shortlisted books and the result was announced on BBC's 'Winterwatch', 31 January 2018.
In second place was the classic Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson and in third was Common Ground by Rob Cowen.
The poll was used to help launch Land Lines, a two-year project exploring the history of modern nature writing, funded by AHRC and led by the Universities of Leeds, St Andrews and Sussex.Find out more
This year poet Michael Rosen joined part of a remarkable new project bringing so-called 'grave goods' to life through his words
The former Children’s Laureate has been invited to write three poems inspired by a selection of artefacts recovered by archaeologists from ancient graves.
The project, which is run jointly by the British Museum, Reading and Manchester universities, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will also produce an academic output and share its findings with the public, including schoolchildren.
“Since the death of my son I’ve been more aware of different cultural traditions around how we handle death, how we accept it or how we fight against it,” says Michael Rosen.
“It’s become something that I think about much more than I used to, and so the idea of looking at death across thousands of years is a thrill, really. How do we memorialise? How do we make death part of our lives? Or how do we hide it away?”Find out more
Now in their fourth year, the AHRC Research in Film Awards are the only awards dedicated to showcasing arts and humanities research through film.
The five winning films of the 2018 Research in Film Awards, were announced at a ceremony at BAFTA in November. From a teenage boy who tries to trace his absent father using an iPhone X, to the story of the greatest mining disaster of the 19th century, this year's winning entries were as moving as they were impressive.
Main image from top left to right: Rob Godman (on behalf of Sam Jury), Professor Stephen Linstead, Tom Diffenthal, George Harris, Ilona Sagar, Victoria Mapplebeck with Jim MapplebeckFind out more
For over a decade, AHRC research has been deepening our knowledge of Stonehenge. The research has overturned previously held views on the origins of Stonehenge including one of its most well known features - its alignment on the midwinter sunset and midsummer sunrise (solstice).
Over 10 years ago an AHRC-funded project discovered periglacial formations (ridges) which are coincidentally aligned with the winter solstice. Researchers believe it was the reason this site was chosen by the first builders of Stonehenge and that the main axis is the midwinter sunset rather than midsummer sunrise. More recent research corroborates that midwinter was especially important. Archaeological analysis of pig bones found nearby suggests that large scale feasting happened here at midwinter.Find out more
Always a highlight of our year, the AHRC/BBC Radio 3's New Generation Thinkers (NGT) is a pioneering scheme which aims to develop a new generation of academics with a interest for working with the media. In February the AHRC and BBC Radio 3 announced 2018’s cohort of NGTs ten academics at the start of their careers who have a flair for communicating their research to the public. The scheme includes the opportunity to make radio and television programmes for the BBC.Find out more
February 2018 saw the launch of the AHRC's first blog covering all areas of the our work. The blog is a great platform to tell both the wider academic community and general public what we are up to.
With a diverse range of authors and posts, from the crossover of farming with archaeology, to the discovery of 18th Century 'fast fashion', the blog has featured 35 entries so far, and has been viewed over 9,700 times.
If you're an AHRC-funded researcher, past or present, and you're interested in writing a blog piece then we want to hear from you.Find out more on the blog
AHRC once again made it possible for a group of young academics to have access to seven world leading institutions, including the Smithsonian and The Huntingdon Library through its International Placement Scheme (IPS).
The IPS is an annual programme, which launched in 2005, providing 3-6 month Research Fellowships to AHRC/ESRC funded doctoral students, early career researchers and doctoral level research assistants.
Those taking up their places on the scheme this year are drawn from institutions across the UK, from the University of Exeter to the University of Edinburgh.
The IPS scheme to enhance the depth, range and quality of research and to allow applicants the opportunity to develop networking links with other international scholars.Find out more
One of the most exciting moments of the AHRC's year was the announcement of the Creative Economy Clusters. From screen industries and digital storytelling to fashion and videogames, some of the UK’s best performing and world renowned creative businesses are receiving a major boost thanks to the £80 million Creative Industries Clusters Programme, which is being funded by the industrial strategy and delivered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council on behalf of UKRI.
The programme comprises of nine creative clusters across the UK and a new Policy and Evidence Centre, led by Nesta in partnership with 13 universities. The programme will bring together world-class research talent with companies and organisations, including household names such as Aardman, Burberry and Sony, in a first-of-its kind research and development investment.
Main image: The Bristol and Bath Cluster - developing new forms of situated storytelling. Copyright: Bristol and Bath ClusterFind out more
We can't guarantee a white Christmas this year, but we can promise you some snow - Dan Snow!
Presented by historian and TV presenter Dan Snow and produced by History Hit, this 30-min documentary film, titled ‘Untold Stories of World War 1’, looks at some of the pioneering research that has come out of the AHRC-funded WW1 Engagement Centres.Find out more
This year marked 100 years since the Spanish Flu epidemic and to mark this anniversary historian Hannah Mawdsley, an AHRC-funded PhD student, co-curated an exhibition at the Florence Nightingale Museum in autumn 2018.
Spanish Flu was an unusually-deadly global flu pandemic that was responsible for the deaths of between 50 and 100 million people between 1918-1920. The exhibition focused on nursing during the crisis, and explored the experiences of those that lived and died at the time.
“The benefit of an exhibition is that you have so many ways to tell your story - as an academic you often just have a piece of paper,” she says.
“It's hard to find a family that hasn't been affected; between a half and a third of the world's population caught Spanish Flu. And that's what we want to show.”Find out more
The arts and humanities community is a dynamic, open minded sector that is in the best shape it can be to face the future, according to the Arts and Humanities Research Council's Director of Partnerships and Engagement.
“It's been a steep learning curve,” says Professor Roey Sweet as she reflects back on her first year overseeing the research council’s diverse partnerships, including those with its Independent Research Organisations (IROs) and international research partners.Find out more
The Health Humanities Medal 2018 was a new national award from the AHRC, in association with the Wellcome Trust, celebrating the contribution of the arts and humanities to improving healthcare, health and wellbeing.
Applications were received across five categories which covered the broad scope of research, impact and leadership - all within the field of health humanities. The winners were revealed at special event in Parliament in September 2018.
Professor Helen Chatterjee, University College London, was awarded a Health Humanities Medal in recognition of her research ‘Museums on Prescription’ which examines how museums can be beneficial to health, specifically looking at how museums can help those who are lonely and at risk of isolation. Analysis of the participants showed significant improvements in psychological wellbeing, improved quality of life and an increased sense of belonging.Find out more
The AHRC announced the latest cohort of seven new 'Leadership Fellows' in September 2018.
As Leadership Fellows the researchers will receive AHRC funding to further their research across a broad range of subject areas, including the surprising longevity of witchcraft in France and society's fascination with dinosaurs (see the Natural History Museum's much-loved 'Dippy' the Diplodocus above)!
The Leadership Fellows scheme is intended to provide time for research leaders - or potential future research leaders - to undertake individual research and collaborative activities that have the potential to transform their subject areas.Find out more