My Path Through Research

The Trials and Triumphs of Doing a PhD

Ethnographic Object Analysis

Another of the courses offered through the UCL graduate school is one on ‘Ethnographic Object Analysis‘. I had planned on attending last year’s course but during the month of May I was on a research visit in Pisa so I had to cancel my registration. I have been keeping an eye out for it all this year, and when registrations started being accepted for this year’s course I immediately signed up.

‘Why would I be interested?’ you might be asking. Well, although I am not working with ethnographic collections per se, I am interested in museum and archival collections. However, I don’t have a museum studies background but a scientific background. Nevertheless, working in an interdisciplinary environment it is always highly useful to understand something of the background of the people you are dealing with. A problem with interdisciplinary work is that often people come to the table with a different way of thinking, methodology and also a different vocabulary. This certainly does not facilitate discussion!

The course was divided into 5 sessions: Analysis, Description, Displaying, Conservation, and finally Analysing Ethnographic Photographs and Archives. I was of course particularly interested in yesterday’s sessions on photographs. I liked the fact that we were presented with a wide variety of materials which we discussed in terms of dating and interpretation, but even further in an ethnographic context, such as what might be being implied by the photographs, or what has been inscribed into them further than what you might see at first glance. It was highly enlightening to see photographic materials from this point of view, rather than from a simply material one.

A plus of the courses was that we were always around 8-10 students. This allowed for much more discussions to take place. Also, there were practical sessions throughout all the sessions. This made it a very hands-on experience, which definitely helped us learn even more from the programme. Also, the fact that the course was not only taught at UCL but sessions were also held at the British Museum and the Horniman museum was definitely a bonus!

Definitely one of the better courses I have attended through the graduate school. I must say that I am very glad to have these courses available. they allow me to learn more about areas I need to know more for my research, as well as about areas I am personally interested in. These courses definitely enhance my experience here!

A Light-Hearted Look at Ethnography

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A Conference Experience

Last week the 9th Indoor Air Quality Meeting was held in Chalon-Sur-Saone, France. IAQ Meetings are  ‘all about the impact of the air quality on objects in museums, libraries, or archives’. As I have been doing some work on environmental conditions inside archives and libraries (which has also been published), I had submitted an abstract to present my work at the conference some months ago which luckily was accepted.

Presentation at the conference varied quite a bit though they all focussed on issues of indoor air quality in heritage environments. There were quite a number of case studies presented from various institutions, as well as the presentation of a number of sensor systems, including a wireless sensor network from a research assistant from the same centre as me. However, aside from the work which is relevant for my research (which of course I found very useful), I was particularly happy to hear presentations on the monitoring of airborne mould in heritage institutions. Having done an internship in microbiology, I always find it interesting to get back to that area of science!

The conference offered me a great opportunity to see the work other people working in the field are doing and to meet people I have been reading the work of and being in contact with over the past year. It also meant hearing all about the latest research in the area. It was exciting to get the opportunity to present and discuss my work, and in particular to see how my work fits into the bigger picture of heritage science. It has left me more excited and eager to keep on working on my project, in particular as I have more clearly seen the benefit of my work in conjunction with other work going on.

Now on to the next part of my research, the next paper, the next conference – the cycle goes on!

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