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Faculty of Arts scoops four AHRC awards

20 May 2011

Four prestigious collaborative doctoral awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council have been awarded to Bristol University’s Faculty of Arts. Four PhD students will work with the ss Great Britain Trust, Czech Radio and the Imperial War Museum.

The awards were given to the Department of Historical Studies and the Department of Russian.  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.

In partnership with the ss Great Britain Trust, two PhD students, supervised by Dr Kirsty Reid and Dr Tim Cole of the Department of Historical Studies will research the history of the ss Great Britain, Brunel's iconic steamship, from 1843 to the present.

The first studentship will cover the period 1843-86 when the ss Great Britain carried passengers to the USA and Australia, troops to the Crimean War and cargo between the UK and the USA.  The focus will be on the ss Great Britain as a ship in motion, and the student will research the experiences of the crew and passengers, the nature of the relationships between different shipboard groups, and how voyaging affected identities of age, class, gender, race, nation and empire.

The second studentship will examine the period from 1886 to the present.  Abandoned in Port Stanley harbour in 1886, the ss Great Britain became a local landmark for Falkland Islanders until 1970 when it was salvaged and relocated to the dry dock in Bristol in which it was originally built.  Since then it has been restored and is now a prize-winning museum.

The student will research how the ship was used during its time in the Falklands, and its subsequent salvage and return to Bristol.  The student will draw on and develop the recent oral history project of memories of the ship’s salvage and consider how the ship has been represented, what stories have been told and why, and what a study of the ss Great Britain reveals about the contemporary history of the heritage industry. 

In partnership with Czech Radio, the Czech counterpart of BBC Radio in Prague, a PhD student will study a recently-acquired archive of BBC Czech-language recordings made in London and broadcast to occupied Czechoslovakia between 1940 and 1945.

This collection, stored since 1945 at the Foreign Ministry in Prague, was unavailable for investigation during the Communist period (1948-1989), when information about 'Western-based resistance' to the German occupation was suppressed.  The broadcasts feature new recordings of leading Czech political and cultural figures and much about the lives of Czechoslovak RAF pilots and their families, including broadcasts from airfields and interviews.

They also reveal the initial conflict between the aims of the broadcasting arm of the Czechoslovak exile government and the editorial principles of the BBC, thereby providing new evidence about the BBC’s working practices and political role during the war.

The doctoral student, jointly supervised by Dr Rajendra Chitnis (Russian) and Dr James Thompson (Historical Studies), will complete the first detailed analytical account of the history of BBC Czech-language broadcasting during the war.  He or she will also spend a year in total working at Czech Radio in Prague, collaborating in programmes about material discovered in the collection and creating a searchable, electronic catalogue for future researchers and programme-makers.

A generous donation from an alumna of the Department of Russian who wishes to remain anonymous, will make it possible for the student to complete two extended study stays in Prague during the project.

In partnership with the Imperial War Museum in London, a PhD student will research the history of display at the museum from 1917 to the present.  The project is designed to redress the fact that there is as yet no substantial history of the museum.

Founded in 1917 to commemorate the First World War, the museum has since developed in response to a century of continual warfare.  It is an institution of international importance, with an acclaimed exhibitions programme and superb collections, including one of the best collections of twentieth-century British art in the world.

The project takes as its starting point the contrast between the apparent solidity of the institution (housed in the former premises of Bedlam) and the process of constant change which it has undergone.

The doctoral student, jointly supervised by Dr Grace Brockington and Dr Tim Cole of the Department of Historical Studies, will pursue various research questions concerning exhibiting at the museum such as curatorial responses to successive conflicts and to shifting attitudes to war, how the museum has treated the eclectic nature of its collection, and the museum's place among the growing number of memorials and war museums internationally.

The projects will commence in October 2011; the partner organisations make a significant financial contribution to the research.

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