CAL UGRS projects: LCAHM

Here you can find out about the UG Research Scholarship projects that are being offered by academics in the School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music in summer 2019.

Non-finalist UG students in CAL can apply to any project that is running. However, you can only apply for one project. So, please make sure you read the project summaries and ‘skills required’ sections carefully before applying.

Student applications open at the beginning of February, the deadline for applications is Friday 29 March 2019. We aim to inform all applicants whether their application is successful in early May.

Projects: 

Midlands Art Papers

Project Proposer/s: Dr Kate Nichols and Dr Sophie Hatchwell

Project Summary

Midlands Art Papers (MAP) is an online open access journal hosted by the University of Birmingham. The CAL UGRS has an essential role in making sure MAP is a success; undertaking research, producing resources for museums, blogging, proof reading, and sharing our work on social media. 

MAP works with 11 partner museums and art galleries in the Midlands to enable and initiate new, collaborative research into the objects in these collections, undertaken by academic staff, students, and curators. 

The first two issues, and more information about MAP, is available at: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/historyofart/research/projects/map/index.aspx 

MAP is accompanied by a blog, set up and currently maintained by previous CAL UGRS students: https://blog.bham.ac.uk/map/ . This keeps MAP ‘live’ and consists of exhibition reviews and news about art events in the region. 

An annual launch event brings together curatorial staff from across the region to discuss and plan future collaborative undertakings with academics from the University.

What the researcher will do

The researcher will have 3 interrelated roles. Taken together, these roles will offer invaluable insight into the connections between research, publishing, and curating which form a significant part of academic research:

  1. In collaboration with all 11 partner collections, identify key objects in each collection related to the issue’s theme (in 2019 this will be disability). Put together a cross-institutional trail of objects to be published in MAP 2019, accompanied by c.100 words of explanation each.  
  2. They will act as an editorial assistant in the weeks leading up to the publication of the third (2019) issue. They will be responsible for proof-reading submissions, preparing manuscripts in house style, and corresponding with authors.
  3. They will write content for and maintain the MAP blog, and promote MAP on social media (twitter and Instagram). This involves interviewing curators, artists, and visiting and reviewing exhibitions in the region.

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  • Ability to conduct independent research
  • Excellent standards of academic writing, including experience of visual analysis
  • Attention to detail and precision
  • Blogging (e.g. exhibition reviews) and use of social media
  • An enthusiasm for art history, curating, and the history of collections 

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

The project will provide the Scholarship holder with experience of archival research in a museum context, academic publishing on a digital platform, and editorial skills. It offers them the opportunity to network with curatorial staff in the Birmingham region, and to become familiar with collections in the Midlands; for history of art students in particular this may help with identifying possible dissertation topics. Putting together a cross institutional trail will develop their research, visual analysis, and writing skills. The editorial aspects of the project will enhance their knowledge of academic referencing and copyright procedures, which should help the student in the presentation of their own written work. It will develop their digital communication skills. Overall, the project will offer the Scholarship holder the opportunity to see how academic publishing works from the perspectives of both researcher and editor.

Previous MAP UGRS scholars have enjoyed running the blog and social media so much that they have continued to maintain this after the project officially ends. The independent study skills, and range of contacts in the museum sector around the region that MAP UGRS scholars develop has been very helpful in helping them to decide on future career options. The first MAP UGRS student is now a College of Arts and Law-funded MA student in Art History and Curating. All previous scholars continue to blog about exhibitions for the MAP blog, and have commented on the ways in which blogging has improved their written communication. 

Audio Description in the West Midlands Arts and Cultural Sector

Project Proposer: Dr Sarah Fishwick

Project Summary

Verbal commentaries – known as audio description or AD – have long been available to blind and visually impaired audiences across the West Midlands via assisted performances and audio-described gallery tours. This project examines the considerations that underpin existing AD provision in the region and reflects on the creative directions in which this service continues to evolve. How far are audio introductions and touch tours integrated into arts programming in the region? To what extent are blind and visually impaired artists and audience members involved in planning and staging theatre performances and art exhibitions? Is there a more integrated role for audio describers in live performance? In prioritising these questions, the project aims to showcase the contribution of local arts organisations in unlocking the creative potential of audio description, while also evaluating the constraints attendant upon responding to the needs of their diverse audiences. 

What the researcher will do

  • Gather and evaluate data from representatives of a variety of West Midlands-based arts and cultural organisations
  • Research audio describers employed by these organisations
  • Engage with users of assisted performances/audio-described tours
  • Develop resources for use in teaching

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  • Familiarity with the arts and cultural sector, through work experience/academic study and/or extracurricular activities, such as dance, drama or musical performance
  • Effective planning and record-keeping
  • Strong verbal and interpersonal skills, such as an ability to negotiate and respect other people’s time
  • Effective writing and proofreading skills
  • An ability to adapt as the project evolves

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

  • Increase awareness of creative content delivery
  • Improve knowledge of professional standards
  • Practise essential project management skills, such as collation of data and time management
  • Enhance networking skills

Testimony in Practice: Working with Stories of the Self and Others

Project Proposer/s: Sara Jones

Project Summary 

Testimony in Practice works with creative and educational practitioners in multiple fields to explore and impact upon the use of cultural forms of testimony (literature, theatre, video recordings, digital technologies). The project is divided into three areas: Holocaust education, creative practice, and community cohesion. Each area is attached to particular activity or group of activities with project partners. We are working with NGOs and museums in the field of Holocaust education to design and deliver teaching resources, with a Catalan theatre company and Romanian/German novelist to produce a play and deliver creative-writing workshops, and with the Polish Expats Association to launch a campaign to gather and exhibit the stories of Central and Eastern European migrants in the UK. The CAL UGR scholarship student would have the opportunity to work on all of these activities.

What the researcher will do

  • Assist with the organisation and delivery of key events and activities within the project. This will include practitioner workshops, the display of the testimonies exhibition in Centrala (Birmingham), and the theatre rehearsals and premiere at BE Festival in July 2019.
  • Assist with the production of teaching resources for the use of cultural forms of testimony in Holocaust education. This will include literature searches and summaries to identify existing materials and – depending on the scholar’s skills set – may incorporate aspects of design.
  • Assist with the collection, processing and analysis of feedback from the project events.
  • Manage the blog and social media pages for the project and associated events. This will include management of the online testimonies campaign and exhibition.
  • Depending on their skills set and interests, the scholarship holder may also be involved in the production of subtitles for the theatre performance

Skills required by the Scholarship holder:

Essential

  • Excellent organisational skills and the ability to manage multiple tasks
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to interact with people from different sectors in a professional manner
  • Experience of and skills in the management of social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Skills in textual analysis and summarising large quantities of data 

Desirable

  • Proficient language skills in one or more of: Catalan, Spanish, Romanian, Polish and German
  • Experience of education or interview research

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

The scholarship holder will benefit both academically and in terms of employability in the following ways: 

  • Experience of working with stakeholders from multiple sectors, including within the creative economy regionally and nationally
  • Development of skills in literature searches, close textual analysis and summarising, which will be transferable to other academic contexts
  • Development of organisational and time-management skills and experience of managing complex projects

Grammars under threat: documenting the ‘DNA’ of Judeo-Spanish 

Project Proposer/s: Dr Alice Corr

Project Summary

This project aims to redress the precarious situation of Judeo-Spanish, a language preserved by the Sephardic diaspora for 500 years but today considered 'critically endangered' by UNESCO. Judeo-Spanish (and its dialects, Judezmo, Ḥaketía and Ladino) is the native language of an ageing population of speakers living in over 30 countries; however, its speakers’ geographical isolation from each other means that active use of Judeo-Spanish is almost exclusively restricted to online communities.

With the language now under threat of extinction, this project will document Judeo-Spanish’s as yet unidentified grammatical ‘DNA’ by examining primary (i.e. authentic texts and speech samples) and secondary (i.e. existing research) sources on the language, using these to identify the defining characteristics which make up Judeo-Spanish’s linguistic ‘blueprint’. Together with a fieldwork survey conducted with online Judeo-Spanish speaking communities, the project will deliver the missing information required by policymakers to evaluate Judeo-Spanish’s eligibility for protection and future preservation.

What the researcher will do

Major activities (provisional timeline in brackets):

  • Empirical data collection: identify and compile relevant empirical language data from existing (written and/or spoken) primary and secondary sources, researching further bibliography online as appropriate (Weeks 1-2)
  • Language analysis and classification: classify the collected data by appropriate criteria (e.g. speaker/region/dialect/linguistic phenomenon), working with supervisor to identify the grammatical elements which contribute to Judeo-Spanish’s ‘blueprint’ (Weeks 2-4)
  • Language documentation: in collaboration with supervisor, design an online fieldwork survey to be conducted with Judeo-Spanish speaking virtual communities (Weeks 4-5)

Other activities (Weeks 1-5):

  • under guidance from supervisor, make contact (in English or, if linguistic skills permit, French) and liaise with key stakeholders in the Judeo-Spanish community, where appropriate to the development of the project; produce a write-up of the scholarship holder’s findings/contributions to the project

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  • Good reading level of Spanish (or a related language, e.g. Portuguese) essential; good listening comprehension and productive written skills in Spanish desirable but not essential
  • Some knowledge of linguistics (e.g. has studied a module with a linguistics component) and/or a willingness to engage with the field (e.g. complete some preparatory reading before commencing the project)
  • Excellent written English, with ability to write for academic and non-academic audiences
  • Ability to conduct primary research online (e.g. Google Scholar; online resources, including social media with a Judeo-Spanish presence, e.g. YouTube, Twitter, Yahoo! groups) and to work comfortably with Microsoft Office (or comparable online equivalent, e.g. Google Docs/Sheets)
  • Strong attention to detail in analysing primary and secondary sources
  • Knowledge of, or willingness to learn, appropriate research ethics related to linguistic data collection
  • Interest in translating audiovisual material would be an advantage but is not required
  • French language skills would be an advantage but are not required

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

  • Development of knowledge and skills in an academic area beyond the curriculum (linguistics, endangered languages, language documentation, fieldwork)  
  • Development of independent research skills (including ethical questions and procedures) and professional integrity, applicable to the scholarship holder’s degree subject and transferable to other academic and non-academic contexts, particularly the world of work
  • Improvement of language skills (written comprehension and production; aural comprehension) and of knowledge of the history and diversity of the Spanish language and Sephardic diaspora
  • Demonstrable evidence to future employers of the development of a range of skills, as detailed above, including the possibility of a publication based on the project
  • Opportunity to use their skills to ‘make a difference’ in the world beyond academia, specifically, to contribute to the safeguarding and preservation of the linguistic and cultural heritage of an endangered language and its speakers

World Literature in Modern Languages: Production and Circulation of Peripheral Literatures in Portuguese

Project Proposer/s: Dr Emanuelle Santos

Project Summary

In the last two decades, the concept of world literature has resurfaced as a way to realign the field of comparative literature and the fact of globalisation. The concept is generally used to group and describe those literary works that circulate beyond their cultural contexts of creation. Yet, the concept it is blind to the impact of key historical and material processes such as colonialism and development that turns world literature into an uneven playing field. 

Addressing this important gap in the theory of world literature, this project is gathering data on the production of literary works from Portuguese-speaking Africa, as well as on their circulation in Europe, to map the structures involved in the worlding of these literary texts.  Data collection at this stage of the project include interviewing translators, publishers and authors, and building a database of texts translated into English and published in the UK and US. 

What the researcher will do 

  • Develop a familiarity with the editorial industry in the field of foreign fiction in the UK
  • Transcribe interviews made in Portuguese and English
  • Search for information on published translations of works from Angolan, Cape Verdean and Mozambican authors into English
  • Create a database using MS Excel to hold data on published English translations of works by Angolan, Cape Verdean and Mozambican

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  • Excellent command of written and spoken English
  • Good command of Portuguese (writing/reading and listening)
  • Ability to use MS Office – mainly Word and Excel
  • Ability to conduct primary research using online databases and archives
  • Optional: Good command of German and/or French (writing/reading and listening)

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder? 

  • The project will give the scholarship holder the opportunity to work with concepts and ideas at the forefront of comparative literary studies, mainly in the fields of world literature and postcolonial studies
  • The scholarship holder will have an excellent opportunity  to acquire valuable knowledge on the creative and editorial industries, mainly when it comes to the production and circulation of foreign fiction
  • The project will give the scholarship holder a unique opportunity to develop their knowledge on the literatures of Portuguese-speaking Africa
  • The scholarship holder will develop their Portuguese language skills
  • Excellent opportunity to develop research (data collection and analysis) skills necessary for further undergraduate projects and potential postgraduate projects

Baudelaire Beyond Song

Project Proposer/s:

Project Summary

‘Baudelaire Beyond Song’ is associated with the Baudelaire Song Project (2015-2019) which has examined how the poetry of nineteenth-century French writer Charles Baudelaire has been set to music, from the nineteenth-century to the present, across different musical genres and languages. While the Project has mainly focussed on song forms (and has catalogued over 1600 songs in its database), musical engagement with Baudelaire’s poetry in other forms (e.g. operas, musicals and in music videos) has not yet been actively researched by the team. ‘Baudelaire Beyond Song’ invites a UGRS scholar to research aspects of performance in sung adaptations of Baudelaire’s poetry, in order to examine and challenge the existing scope of musical adaptations of Baudelaire’s work. The UGRS scholar will be trained in digital tools, analysis techniques, and key methods for researching musical and multimedial adaptations of words originally written 150 years ago in French.

What the researcher will do

  • Develop a familiarity with the poetry of Baudelaire and song settings of his work
  • Help to finalise the Baudelaire Song Project online database
  • Research music theatre settings (including operas and musicals) of Baudelaire’s poetry as well as music videos via international library catalogues, online sound platforms, physical and digital sound archives
  • Gain skills in innovative Digital Humanities methodologies, in particular sound and performance analysis
  • Develop skills in writing up findings, through a variety of outputs including social media and blog posts, and scholarly articles, as appropriate 

Skills required by the Scholarship holder 

  • Good level of spoken and written French, excellent comprehension skills
  • Excellent written English, with ability to write for a variety of audiences (e.g. general interest / academic)
  • Ability to read music and an interest in theatre, opera and/or associate aspects of the performing arts
  • Confident with technology (in particular working knowledge of Excel and some knowledge of html / xml desirable)
  • Ability to conduct independent research