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Alumna Alison Hess's exhibition hosts historic BBC broadcast

Posted on 28/11/2012

Geography alumna, Dr Alison Hess, played a central part in the BBC’s 90th birthday broadcast when her Science Museum exhibition hosted the historic event.

The exhibition entitled “The Voice of the BBC: 90 Years of Public Broadcasting” uses research uncovered as part of Alison’s PhD in Royal Holloway’s Geography Department. Musician Damon Albarn’s composition 2LO Calling was played to 80 million radio listeners around the world on Wednesday November 14 to mark the 90th anniversary.

We caught up with Alison to talk about the Blur frontman's broadcast, her role at the Science Museum and the importance of radio in modern times.

Were you excited to see your work featured in an exhibition?

It was amazing seeing my work in this exhibition and a fantastic conclusion to a PhD which takes up years of your life. Working with a museum leads you to look at your work in a very different way - thinking about how it fits into a three dimensional space and how to communicate key messages to a general audience. Working with a large institution is a very different experience to the solitary mission of writing a thesis.

What did you think of the Damon Albarn broadcast?

When I listened to it live on the night I didn’t really take it in. It was more an overwhelming feeling of relief that everything had worked out alright! I’ve listened to it again since then and I really like the way it draws on elements of the past - the pips, Big Ben, and of course 2LO Calling - as a way to look to the future.

How did you get involved with the Science Museum?

I got involved with the Science Museum as part of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award which started in 2008. This type of award meant I was jointly supervised by the Geography Department at Royal Holloway and the Science Museum. I was able to work in the museum and being already embedded in the institution opened up opportunities to work with them beyond the end of the award.

Do you think radio still has a place in modern times?

Radio certainly has a place in modern times, but how we listen will continue to change with podcasts and internet radio becoming more popular. It has the ability to sit in the background of our lives in a way that television and computers (which demand constant attention) don’t. We can be cleaning, travelling, cooking, painting the living room or any number of things and still be tuned into the wider world.

Who is your inspiration for your research and work?

There are so many people who have inspired me. My mum, granny and grandma were very inspirational because of their interest in family history. I first became fascinated by the history of technology, particularly between the wars, when I was at Lancaster University and then my supervisors at Royal Holloway, Klaus Dodds and David Gilbert, have been fantastic. John Liffen and Tim Boon at the Science Museum also inspired me by writing such a fascinating proposal.

For more information about the exhibition, visit the Science Museum website.


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