Posted on 18/04/2017
by Charlotte Bartle, who will begin the Victorian Literature, Art and Culture MA at Royal Holloway in September 2017.
Over the weekend of April 7th-9th, Royal Holloway’s Centre for Victorian Studies hosted the annual London Victorian Studies Colloquium; a residential event for postgraduates and postdocs, partly sponsored by the TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership and organised by Professor Juliet John and Rosalind White. The informal nature of the weekend allowed for participation from myself, a final year undergraduate, along with several other undergraduates and a wide variety of postgraduates from a number of disciplines. We were treated to some fascinating and insightful papers, a lively reading group, a truly exceptional opening panel session, a visit to the Royal Holloway Picture Gallery, and a good deal of very enjoyable networking.
Heritage and Cultural Industries Panel
The colloquium began with a panel on heritage and cultural industries, featuring three eminent speakers. Sonia Solicari (Director of the Geffrye Museum of the Home) talked about her career path and provided useful advice regarding entering the sector, primarily through volunteering. She stressed the importance of the organisational differences between local and national museums, and discussed ways to stand out amongst other internship applicants. Cindy Sughrue OBE (Director of the Charles Dickens Museum) regaled us with her very interesting and very non-linear career progression. As someone at the start of their career, I found it fascinating to hear from someone who championed taking chances on jobs that pique your interest over conventionally ‘sensible’ choices. Cindy’s closing comment, that each of her jobs has been her dream job until the next opportunity arose, and her ethos of changing roles before things stagnate, was one of the principal things I took away from the entire weekend. It was certainly refreshing to hear. The panel concluded with Alex Werner (Head of History Collections at the Museum of London), who raised interesting points about the current material culture skills shortage within the sector, and gave further tips for making inroads into the industry including emphasising specific skillsets such as a willingness to catalogue during an internship, and maintaining social media accounts or blogging. It was brilliant to start the colloquium with such an engaging and interesting discussion, and certainly one that left me with a lot of things to contemplate about my future career.
Caricature and Curating: Theodore Lane’s Theatrical Prints and Adapting Doctoral Research for Exhibition - Tessa Kilgarriff
Saturday’s activities began with a paper from Tessa Kilgarriff, a third-year collaborative PhD candidate at the University of Bristol and the National Portrait Gallery. The paper consisted of two parts, firstly detailing Tessa’s current research into Theodore Lane’s theatrical prints and portraiture, and moving on to an aspirational explanation of how she recently curated her first display at the NPG. Tessa’s current research was particularly interesting in the way it illustrated both the positive and negative effects of theatrical portraiture, depending on the intentions of the artists. For me, the highlight of the paper was hearing how Tessa had outlined in her PhD proposal her desire to adapt her research into a display. Tessa then talked through the process of applying for the display, and the lengthy procedure from pitching the display to the team at the NPG, to helping to install the pieces herself.
Afterlife-like: Visual Realism and Victorian Spiritualism through the Stereoscope - Jennifer Moriarty
Jennifer Moriarty, a first-year MPhil student in the English and Humanities department at Birkbeck, University of London, presented a paper from her research into the changing meanings of the Victorian body in death and the afterlife, specifically focusing on spiritualism and the stereoscope. To accompany her paper Jennifer brought in a stereoscope, which delegates enjoyed trying out. It certainly helped to explain how the device became such a popular sensation in the 19th century. Jennifer’s paper discussed the use of the stereoscope in capturing images of ghostly apparitions and its role in the boom of spiritualism. Her paper included some fascinating examples of these ‘supernatural’ images, and it was interesting to hear about the suspension of disbelief and naïvety that led to these pictures becoming so popular. Having never seen or handled a stereoscope before, I found the paper absolutely enthralling. As the colloquium had already covered aspects of Victorian art, this switch to popular culture was a very interesting end to the morning.
Dr Ceylan Kosker who recently completed her PhD, entitled 'Violet Fane: An Intellectual Biography' at Aberystwyth University, lead our reading session on Saturday evening. Extracts from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (1847) and Violet Fane's Thro’ Love and War(1886) formed the basis of our discussion. We also looked at a passage from Fane's archive, 'Objections to Writing Memoirs', which Ceylan is kindly transcribed for us.
Image to text: moving across professional genres - Tamsin Evernden
The final day of the colloquium began with a visit to the Royal Holloway Picture Gallery. The gallery is home to the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College Art Collections; an impressive collection of Victorian artwork. Seeing such well known pieces as Sir John Everett Millais’s The Princes in the Tower and The Babylonian Marriage Market by Edwin Long was a wonderful way to start the day.
Closing the colloquium was Tamsin Evernden (Royal Holloway, University of London), who recently completed her PhD on Dickens and Character, with a paper discussing her ten years in the world of art and especially her time working at Christie’s. Prior to Tamsin’s paper, I had very little knowledge of the art auction process and sector. It was interesting to discover how Tamsin’s career progressed and to hear some of her anecdotes about her time at Christie’s. Tamsin’s enthusiasm for Victorian art was exceptionally infectious, and I look forward to exploring this area further.
As an undergraduate, I found the weekend to be hugely motivating as I prepare to undertake postgraduate studies at the Royal Holloway Centre for Victorian Studies. The delegates, speakers, and organisers were exceptionally welcoming and provided insights into fascinating ongoing areas of research that was truly inspiring. The papers given, and also the discussions during the opening panel, highlighted career options that I had previously not considered. I look forward to attending many more excellent events at the CVS from September.
To view the storify of #CVSweekend click on the image below.