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Faculty of Arts scoops four AHRC awards worth £200,000

One of the tombs in Arnos Vale Cemetery that will be studied as part of the project

One of the tombs in Arnos Vale Cemetery that will be studied as part of the project Professor Mark Horton

Press release issued: 8 April 2010

Four prestigious collaborative doctoral awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, worth £200,000, have been awarded to Bristol University’s Faculty of Arts. These awards are given for research that involves active collaboration with outside partners and are designed to encourage researchers to use their expertise to work on projects that benefit the wider community.

The four awards were given to the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Department of Historical Studies.  They will fund four doctoral students, providing them with opportunities to work outside an academic environment and establish mutually beneficial links with the collaborating partners.

One partnership is with the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust to study the historic landscape of Bristol’s famous Victorian garden cemetery, which was saved from redevelopment some years ago after a massive local campaign, and is now being restored with the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant.

Professor Mark Horton, who will supervise the research, said: “This is just the sort of research universities should be doing.  The Arnos Vale project is a fine example of strong community involvement in Bristol’s heritage where our skills and expertise can have real impact.  It is great that the AHRC has recognised this.”

A second partnership is with Bristol Zoological Gardens.  This collaboration came about through the initiative of Bristol Zoo’s director, Dr Jo Gipps, who sought out an academic partner to undertake research into the Zoo's history, making use of its rich but under-exploited in-house archives.

The Zoo – the oldest provincial zoo in the world and one of relatively few zoos established in the nineteenth century that remains on its original site – will also soon celebrate its 175th anniversary, yet there is little published literature on the Zoo's social and animal histories.

Two PhD studentships will provide material and insights to enrich visitors’ experience and deepen understanding of the Zoo's history for both the local community and those working in the fields of social and environmental history.

The partnership and the students' work will be guided by Professor Peter Coates and Dr Timothy Cole of the University of Bristol, and Mr Simon Garrett and Dr Christoph Schwitzer of Bristol Zoo.

Professor Coates said: “Bristol Zoo Gardens and the University of Bristol have extensive collaborative experience through many joint research projects in the biological and veterinary sciences, and the Bristol Natural History Consortium.  These studentships allow the Zoo to extend its links with the University by branching out into the arts and humanities for the first time.”

Simon Garrett, Head of Learning at Bristol Zoo, is involved in the project to commemorate the Zoo's 175th anniversary next year.  He said: “Collaborating with Bristol University on this important project on the Zoo's history is a fantastic opportunity, particularly as the Zoo celebrates its 175th anniversary next year.

“Bristol Zoo is such an integral part of the city's past that we do not want to lose vital information and memories.  There are already countless stories and events from the early days of the Zoo that have been lost forever, and we want to preserve as much of the Zoo's magic as possible for the future.  Understanding our origins and history, and how we have progressed to become a leader in our field today, is vital to continuing our development into the future as an integral part of a city rich in natural history, and as part of the wider conservation movement.”

The final partnership is with Tate Britain and focuses on a previously unexplored area within the national collections of British art: The Classical Nude in Romantic Britain.

The project will ask what is distinctive about the ‘romantic’ representation of the nude figure, both male and female, in the early nineteenth century. It will be jointly supervised by two experts in British art, Professor Elizabeth Prettejohn of Bristol’s Department of Historical Studies and Dr Martin Myrone at Tate.

The research aims to uncover new insights through close study of particular paintings in the Tate collection, and will allow a doctoral student to develop curatorial and museum skills as well as expertise in the history of British art.

Professor Prettejohn said: “The collaboration with Tate means that the doctoral student will be able to work with real works of art, and to think about how to present them to a wider public. The research will be of huge importance to scholars of British art and historians of the Romantic period, but it will also have a much wider impact.”

The projects will last for three years; the partner organisations make a significant financial contribution to the research.

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