1 – 7 December, Charlotte Mathieson

This week’s curator is of particular interest to me (Krissie): not only is she a literature researcher, but specializes in Victorian literature AND is based at the University of Warwick, whose Arts Centre figured largely in my formative years. So I am very much looking forward to hearing about her research and arts-related projects.

Hello, I’m Charlotte Mathieson; I usually tweet as @cemathieson and you can also find out more about me on my website. I’m a Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), University of Warwick. My research is on Victorian Literature; I completed my PhD in Warwick’s Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies a few years ago, and I’m just finishing writing up my thesis into a monograph on journeys in the Victorian novel. My book explores the role that journeys play in forging relationships between gender, nation and place in the Victorian novel; I look at novelists like Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell. I’m also interested in the contemporary cultural role that journeys play in our reception of authors today, and I’m working on several pieces around literary tourism in contemporary settings, such as the Dickens bicentenary in 2012. So I’ll be tweeting a bit about the Victorians, their literary legacies, and what role tourism, especially literary tourism, has to play in current cultural engagement with the humanities.

In addition to my research, my job involves working on a number of IAS projects. For the past two years I was Director of the University of Warwick Book Festival at Warwick Arts Centre (BookFest): I established the inaugural one-day Festival in 2013, and expanded this to a two-day event featuring over 50 authors in 2014. The Festival aimed to engage local audiences with inspiring research-led ideas across a whole range of subjects, from poetry and philosophy to art and espionage – authors ranged from the writer Louis de Bernières to ex-CIA agent Tony Mendez of the Ben Affleck film Argo. Gaining hands-on experience of running public engagement activity on a large scale has been invaluable for me, and led me to ask a lot of questions about the meaning and value of engaging with public audiences, what makes for ‘successful’ public engagement, and in particular what is the value of the humanities in public life; I hope to discuss some of these themes next week!

The final aspect of my job involves working to support early career researchers who hold fellowships at the IAS; I run a programme of activity to develop our ECRs, and have been involved in a lot of additional work in supporting ECRs on career-stage issues. During my week as curator I’ll be particularly interested to engage with early career scholars around current debates about the humanities, thinking about what it means to be an ECR working in the humanities today, and how ECRs can be active in shaping the wider cultural currency of the humanities through their work. I’ll also be interested in discussing the opportunities that exist for ECRs to explore ‘alternative’ or ‘non’-academic careers in the humanities.

I look forward to tweeting with you all next week!

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24-30 November, Ben Fast

This week, we have Ben Fast (@benfaster) tweeting from Canada, where he will be discussing his interest in museums and heritage tourism, and being very organised about his tweeting – so look out for those days when you would like to join in the conversation!

Hi, my name is Ben Fast and normally I tweet over at @benfaster. I’m excited to join We the Humanities as the first Canadian curator to talk about my interest, research, and experiences in museums and heritage tourism! I may also be the youngest curator yet at the ripe old age of 23, but who’s counting anyways?

My interest in museums comes from my passion for sharing history. I graduated with a BA in History (with honours) from the University of Victoria in the Spring of 2014 and moved straight into my current MA in Tourism Management studies at Royal Roads University, both located in the beautiful city of Victoria on Canada’s west coast. My reasons for taking a tourism degree are because I want to learn how to better share the stories in our museums and to facilitate the growth of those institutions during today’s changing global economic climate. My MA graduate research paper topic is yet to be nailed down completely but will likely be about museum development and capacity building, or community engagement outside the museum’s four walls.

I have worked and volunteered in museums in Canada (Craigdarroch Castle, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Royal BC Museum) and France (Juno Beach Centre), often through the UVic Humanities Co-op Education program. I am a firm believer in co-operative education and paid internships as they have exposed me to roles ranging from tour guide to events co-ordinator and have helped me build up both experience and contact networks. In today’s work environment, getting paid work experience is vital for humanities students. I just got back from a field school research trip to the UK where I explored the possibility of doing my MA internship in UK museums, and I will talk more about that during the week. Outside of school and museums, I’m a musician, photographer, writer, sports fan, traveller, and postcard collector.

During my week as curator of We the Humanities, I want to explore many aspects of the modern museum and how the humanities is presented to the public. I have a schedule to kick-start discussion, but I look forward to being led off-topic and exploring new avenues with you. I’m also very happy to be supported by some Canadian museums who have donated prizes which I will give away throughout the week! While I look forward to highlighting some of the great work being done in Canadian museums, I’m also interested in engaging a global audience to compare museum work around the world, and explore the topic from all aspects of the humanities of course.

Day 1: Education and Programming
Day 2: Community Outreach and Social Media
Day 3: Partnerships and Collaboration
Day 4: Internships and Professional Development
Day 5: Events
Day 6: Exhibits and Technology
Day 7: Recap, general discussion, links and networking

I’m looking forward to tweeting with you over the coming week! If we’re in different time zones, you can catch up with my daily re-cap blogs at http://benfast.ca.

17TH – 24TH NOVEMBER, CLAIRE ASKEW

This week WetheHumanities brings you Claire Askew (@onenightstanzas) talking about poetry, intersectionality and connecting the two ‘worlds’ of academia and work. We look forward to hearing more about her work in the community and ways of encouraging engagement with the humanities among different walks of life.

Hi, I’m Claire Askew – you can find my personal tweets at @onenightstanzas.  In late 2013, I completed my PhD in Creative Writing and Contemporary Women’s Poetry at the University of Edinburgh, and I’m now a working writer and project co-ordinator for Scottish Book Trust, the leading agency for the promotion of literature, reading and writing in Scotland.  75% of my PhD submission consisted of a completed collection of my own poetry – the book is entitled This changes things and forthcoming from Bloodaxe in 2016.  My thesis – which made up the other 25% – took an intersectional feminist look at contemporary women’s poetry from the US and UK.  I wanted to explore to what extent female poets are still hampered by the anxiety of male influence, and examined the ways in which the work of contemporary women poets has been affected by the few female writers admitted to the hallowed halls of the Western literary canon (Mary Shelley and Sylvia Plath, among others).  Beyond that, I unpacked the various ways in which white, wealthy women’s narratives are still valued above – or at least very differently to – the narratives of women of colour, poor women, sex workers and so on.

I was a self-funded full-time PhD but also worked full-time throughout my period of study as a lecturer at Edinburgh’s Telford College, now Edinburgh College Granton.  I worked with young people and adults – mostly young men – who faced multiple barriers to learning and progression.  In the three-and-a-half years it took to complete my PhD, I became increasingly aware of the vital connections between my two ‘worlds.’  On the one hand, I was examining ideas about literary canon: the particular texts, ideas and narratives that are considered ‘great,’ and the people who produce – and vitally, are able to access – these texts, ideas and narratives.  On the other, I was working with a group of people who had never engaged – or never been allowed to engage – with the world of reading, writing and creativity.

Since the end of my PhD, I have rather abandoned academia.  In my work at SBT, I help to create books that are specially designed for adults who struggle with literacy – a big part of my work is going out to meet learners in their own communities and asking them what tools they need to empower their reading and writing and engage or re-engage them with books.  This is not a niche issue – 26.7% of adults in Scotland face challenges due to poor literacy, and a much larger number are reluctant readers.  As a working writer, I also offer freelance creative writing sessions for groups or individuals whose voices are often overlooked by mainstream media and publishing – since 2012, I’ve been involved in confidence-building creative writing projects with refugee and asylum seeking women, with homeless and vulnerably housed individuals, and with those whose lives are affected by HIV and/or Hep C.  When I have time, I try to write a few poems of my own!

As you can probably tell, I like to be useful.  I think the Humanities should be useful.  I’d like to ask some possibly challenging questions about accessibility and engagement, and hope to find out how intersectional the Humanities are, or can be.  I’d like to ask questions about funding, privilege and ‘academia’ versus ‘real life.’  Be warned: I’m more of a nosy community-worker poet than a high-minded scholar.  You might have to explain things to me more than once.

10th – 17th November, Jenny Ostini

Introducing Jennry Ostini, a media historian working on a post-doc in learning and technology. This week, she’ll be discussing her experiences in the digital humanities whilst tackling important topics such as academic identity, alternative academic careers and being an academic mum! We’re really looking forward to following her feed for the week! 

Hi I’m Jenny Ostini (Twitter handle: @follysantidote). I’m currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the (takes a huge breath) Digital Futures Collaborative Research Network hosted at the University of Southern Queensland’s Australian Digital Futures Institute (ADFI). My postdoc is on learning in a technology-rich environment (which is also a bit of a mouthful). It’s a really interesting place to find myself as my PhD was in mass communication history and I would consider myself to be a media historian. My thesis looked at how the news media and political discourse in the United States between 1919 and 1989 constructed particular “common sense” stories of human rights. I tried to examine how US political discourse reached the point at which a person or news article could say “so and so is a human rights violator” and assume that their audience would share the same understanding of what that meant.

I came to this postdoc thirteen years after completing my PhD via a range of other work inside and outside of academia. I’ve taught undergraduate journalism, worked as a contract evaluator of community health programs, sold shoes, worked for a no-for-profit organisation in essential services policy and social sector capacity building, done freelance editing and consultancy and ended up back in academia as a middle-aged postdoc.

Oddly enough it was my work in the community sector that led me into a digital futures research centre. I was working on how to engage adult community sector workers in continuing professional development and capacity building for their organisations. As part of it, my organisation was experimenting with various ways of delivering online learning and engagement and I was able to bring my mass communication training and interest in storytelling and education to the project. This led me sideways into my current work on digital literacies and research on knowledge sharing within the wider community that a) may not have signed up for an educational experience and b) may regard traditional sources of knowledge with distrust. I am working on research projects in communicating climate variation information to farmers and on developing toolkits for helping women learn the skills they need to avoid online violence. I’m also working on an ethnographic study of how teenage girls use technology in their everyday lives.

I hope to talk about digital literacies, learning and knowledge creation in general, reinventing yourself inside and outside academia, being an academic mum, managing academic identity when your work cant be easily pigeon holed, issues you might encounter in an alternative-academic career, and issues you might encounter being a non-traditional academic. I look forward to our discussions very much.