3/3 – 10/3/2014: Danielle Thom

Our second curator for @wethehumanities is Danielle Thom.  I’m especially excited for her week as my PhD research is in visual culture and I’ve got a particular interest in thinking about  things that might not necessarily be considered as ‘art’.  I’m also a big fan of a well-placed pun and I get the impression that she is too.  Danielle is a recent PhD graduate and now Assistant Curator of Sculpture at the V&A museum in London and has her own blog, which you can find here.

When I was first asked to guest-curate the Twitter account for ‘We The Huge Manatees’, I was pleased but bemused. I didn’t realise that sea-cows had internet access but, nonetheless, I was determined to do them justice. When I subsequently found out that I was being asked to participate in ‘We The HUMANITIES’, I put on a brave face. Secretly, though, I was relieved, as my knowledge of manatees is limited.

My knowledge of the humanities, however, is sufficient to tweet about. At least, that’s the idea. I suppose, technically, you would call me an art historian, although I prefer to think of myself as a ‘historian of visual and material culture’. Long-winded, I know, but it helps me step around the notion of ‘art’, which in a historical context can be quite limiting. Not all that is visual has traditionally been considered as art, but I find that a comic print, a style of costume, or the motif on a dinner service can tell us as much (if not more) about cultures and customs as any academic painting or sculpture.

Now, that last point is a bit of professional sacrilege, because the job hat that I wear (at a jaunty angle) is Assistant Curator of Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. I’ve only been there for a few months, and my experience of learning on-the-job is something I hope to share with you during my guest-curator spot. Not only am I new in the job, I’m also new to sculpture as a field of study. I completed my PhD (last year) on 18th century English satirical prints, so this has been a bit of a transition for me. That said, I’m still teaching an undergraduate course at UCL on ‘the age of Hogarth’, so I haven’t stepped away from that field completely – and hopefully, as I go on, I’ll find ways to combine my previous work with the new opportunity that’s been given me. Prior to the PhD, I also worked for a while at the National Army Museum, as a curator in their archives department, and I’ve found ways to incorporate aspects of military history into subsequent work (primarily by looking at satirical and patriotic perceptions of the 18th century British army/navy). So, it can be done!

As guest curator of We The Humanities, ideally I’d like to use my week to accomplish world peas. Marrowfats and petit pois for all! But I recognise my limits, so I’ll stick to what I know: interdisciplinary research, moving from ‘pure’ academia to the museum world, the academic employment crisis facing new/recent PhDs, and general babble on early modern social/visual history. All delivered with a healthy dash of facetiousness, feminism and the occasional feline.
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