Deadline 29/06/2012 Two PhD studentships on Reconnecting Sloane

AHRC Extended Collaborative Doctoral Award Programme

RECONNECTING SLOANE: TEXTS, IMAGES, OBJECTS

Following the award of an extended programme of three AHRC Collaborative PhD Studentships on the theme of Reconnecting Sloane: Texts, Images, Objects, applications are invited for TWO studentships commencing in autumn 2012.

1.          Collecting and Correspondence: Sloane’s Papers and Scientific Networks (Supervised by Dr Arnold Hunt, British Library and Dr Anne Goldgar, King’s College London)

2.         Putting Nature in a Box: Sloane’s Vegetable Substances (Supervised by Dr Charlie Jarvis, Natural History Museum, and Professor Miles Ogborn, Queen Mary University of London)

A third Doctoral studentship in the programme, Visualizing Natural Knowledge: Sloane’s Albums of Natural History Drawings (Supervised by Dr Kim Sloan, British Museum, and Dr Elizabeth Eger, King’s College London) has already been allocated to a named student.

As the research for these projects is already partly defined, applicants should submit a 1000 word Statement of Purpose (see Application Process below) which outlines their suitability for the studentship and how they would propose to take the research forward. Applicants may apply for both studentships, but they must complete separate applications for each as detailed below.

 

The Research Programme

This Research Programme aims to examine the role of a major early Enlightenment collection, and its collector, in the making of knowledge about nature. Sir Hans Sloane’s (1660-1753) extensive collection of texts (in print and manuscript), images (paintings, drawings and prints) and objects (including specimens and herbaria) formed the founding collection of the British Museum (BM) in 1753, but was subsequently dispersed, primarily to the British Library (BL) and the Natural History Museum (NHM). For Sloane and his contemporaries, the collection would have been understood as a whole, and its uses would have involved working between texts, images and objects. The programme’s three linked studentships – each of which will be conducted with the partner organization that now holds the part of Sloane’s collection that will be studied – will aim to ‘Reconnect Sloane’ by examining the making and use of this collection in terms of the specific material within it – texts, images and objects – and also the connections between materials. Working across the separate collections in the way this will provide new insight into Sloane’s role in the making of natural knowledge.

Aims and objectives of the Programme

Overall, the programme’s three linked studentships aim to understand Sloane’s collecting practices as an active engagement in the production of Enlightenment knowledge. Sloane was a man of letters, physician, naturalist, traveller, historian and collector. He formed a crucial node in the interchange of ideas, people and objects in the Enlightenment and his collections provide a unique and invaluable source for exploring the role of objects in negotiating scholarly status and creating a ‘Republic of Letters’. Sloane is well known for providing the BM’s founding collection, and as president of the Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians, yet unlike his contemporaries Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle he has received relatively little scholarly attention. While his collection formed a major part of the BM’s foundation in 1753 it has since been dispersed between the BL, the BM and the NHM. As Arthur McGregor, editor of the only book on Sloane’s collecting to date, stated in the ODNB (2004), ‘these materials provide one of the great resources for scholarly research into eighteenth-century intellectual history, though as yet they lack both a definitive catalogue and all but the most partial of topical surveys.’ This programme aims to reconnect Sloane’s collection by interrogating how he dealt with the wide range of material in his collection and understanding how that shaped his production of new ways of understanding the natural world.

Sloane’s collection stands at an important point in the history of collecting between early modern cabinets of curiosities and the great Enlightenment collections. Recent work on the history of collecting argues that the making of a collection – how it is gathered, ordered, labelled, catalogued, housed and displayed – are both products of historical context and a crucial part of the production of new knowledge. Collecting, of nature as much as of art or artefacts, has come to be understood as a cultural practice, evolving as much from habits and desires as from theories of knowledge. This research programme investigates how Sloane’s processes of collecting, curating, describing, and cataloguing operated to establish new ways of thinking about the relationship of humankind to the natural world, truth and religion. Sloane himself certainly understood the vital connection between these practices and ways of knowing, writing to the Abbé de Bignon that ‘the collection and accurate arrangement of these curiosities constituted my major contribution to the advancement of science’.

The early modern period witnessed a series of dramatic transformations in natural historical and philosophical knowledge. There was also a dramatic increase in the range of natural historical materials flowing into the hands of European doctors and natural philosophers from the colonies established in the Americas and the trade routes that extended to Africa and across the Indian Ocean. Hans Sloane was a pivotal figure in the process of understanding the natural history of this new world. His Natural History of Jamaica (1707 and 1725) attempted a systematic understanding of the island’s flora and fauna, based on his own collecting on the island in the 1680s. However, by the time his Natural History was produced, Sloane had established himself at the centre of a global network of correspondents, and had built an extensive collection of natural historical and other materials, including texts, images and specimens which made his London residence a crucial meeting place for intellectual exchange.

The research programme aims to address the following research questions:

i. What ideas about nature shaped the making of Sloane’s collection and, in turn, how did the collection come to shape new ideas about nature

ii. What aesthetic, literary and representational traditions were drawn upon in making and using the collection?

They can be answered by addressing empirical questions regarding how Sloane’s collection was made and used:

What did Sloane collect?   Where did the items in his collection come from?

How, and from whom, did he acquire them?

How did he describe and catalogue them? How did he archive and curate them?

How was his collection used?

The scale of Sloane’s collecting means that these questions have to be approached via carefully selected parts of his collection. Each of the three studentships is based on a well-defined sub-set of the collection – Sloane’s archive (BL), albums of drawings (BM) and Vegetable Substances (NHM) – and will address the specific questions arising from the material found there: texts, images or objects. The programme’s additional value will come from its capacity to support students working within a comparative context that enables them to address specific questions about collecting as part of a broader debate about the nature of Enlightenment knowledge. Reconnecting Sloane has the potential to open up new questions concerning, amongst others, the relationship between commerce and scholarship, the formation of new intellectual and cultural ‘spaces’, the role of objects in negotiating social status and scholarly exchange and the moral value of ‘nature’ in society more broadly.

Public Engagement

The doctoral students’ research will have an impact far beyond the realms of academia by producing:

–          improved documentation of the collections at each institution which can be viewed  by the public via institutional websites

–          innovative research for use in public exhibitions and inspiring content for public engagement events (including exhibitions produced by and for the programme)

–          new questions about current theories and practices of curating through close attention to the history of curatorship

–          a series of public lectures and workshops in collaboration with HEI partners

–          development of digital resources specifically in terms of a virtual research platform and biographical database of Sloane’s international research network

Doctoral Studentship 1. Collecting and Correspondence: Sloane’s Papers and Scientific Networks (Supervised by Dr Arnold Hunt, British Library and Dr Anne Goldgar, King’s College London)

 Sloane’s correspondence and papers are fundamental to this research programme. They are the key archival record of his collecting activities, indispensable to any biographical study, and crucial for understanding Sloane’s position at the centre of an international traffic of objects and ideas.  But they are confusingly arranged and poorly catalogued, and this project requires the input of British Library curators who can help to disentangle Sloane’s own archive from the larger body of the Sloane manuscript collection.

A full recataloguing of Sloane’s manuscripts, preferably leading to a digital edition of the correspondence, is much needed. Some steps towards this goal have already been taken by Lisa Smith’s pilot project, ‘Sir Hans Sloane’s Correspondence Online’, which has catalogued a portion of the incoming correspondence. This studentship, however, will be focused on a specific set of research questions:

a). How did Sloane acquire material for his collection?  What did he acquire, and where did he obtain it?

b). What was the purpose of Sloane’s collection, and how was it used?  How did he share his collection and make it available to others?

c). What can this tell us about the social and cultural context of Sloane’s collecting?  Can the physical objects in Sloane’s collection be mapped onto an intellectual network?

The student will work mainly on Sloane’s correspondence (Sloane MSS 4036-4069), but also on the miscellaneous papers which have only been summarily catalogued, such as the volumes of ‘Loose Papers’ (Sloane 3984) and ‘Fragments of Catalogues’ (Sloane 4019). These contain a mass of information on the provenance of particular items in Sloane’s collection, ranging from ‘a Bone out of the Penis of a Walrus’ (Sloane 4051, ff 59-60) to a ‘Wasps nest from Bengal hanging from the twiggs of the trees’ (Sloane 3984, ff 272-4). Some of these items still survive in the BM and NHM, and others are recorded in their catalogues. By joining up these various pieces of documentary evidence, the student will reconstruct the formation and development of Sloane’s collection, and lay the groundwork for the recataloguing of the Sloane manuscripts.

 The British Library

The British Library is the UK’s national library and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. The Library’s mission is to help people advance knowledge to enrich lives. The collections are available to everyone who needs to use them including education, business and industry users, the medical profession, independent writers and researchers, local and national government and the library and information sector. The Library also presents a wide range of exhibitions, publications, educational programmes and public events to broaden access to and enable enjoyment of its collections. Approximately 100,000 people visit each month and over 10,000 school visitors per year participate in educational workshops. The Library’s collections cover all fields of knowledge in hundreds of languages and are in a broad range of formats, including printed books, manuscripts, archives and sound recordings. They range from the earliest written records to the digital collections of the present day, representing a vast and unique resource for the understanding of human experience, history, culture and society.

King’s College London

The Department of History at King’s is acknowledged as one of the best history departments in the world.  It was ranked second in The Sunday Times 2011 rankings for History in Britain, and both its teaching and research have consistently received exceptionally high ratings in league tables, teaching assessments and the RAE. The department is, among other things, a vibrant centre for British and European cultural history and the history of science and medicine. With about 100 PhD students, the department is a friendly place for postgraduates, with plenty of opportunities for interaction with both staff and students, as well as strong involvement by staff in convening seminars at the Institute of Historical Research.

The Studentship

The award will cover university tuition fees and provide the standard AHRC maintenance award for three years (currently £15,590 per year). In addition, the student will receive research support from the British Library of up to £1000 pa for three years and £500 in the fourth year.

Supervision and Training

The supervisors for the studentship are Dr Anne Goldgar (School of History, King’s College London) and Dr Arnold Hunt (Department of Manuscripts, British Library). Supervisions will be held fortnightly for the first six months, and monthly thereafter. There will also be three-monthly meetings of the entire programme team for the duration of the programme. Students will participate in KCL’s graduate school training programme as well as receiving source-specific training via the research programme. In the first two years of the programme there will be four annual student workshops on specific archival skills and relevant research themes rotating between the partner institutions to ensure a full awareness of the broader intellectual context of the project and the importance of cross-institutional connections.

At the British Library the student will be given standard office facilities, including desk space and PC access, a British Library staff pass and e-mail account, and staff-level access to the manuscripts collection. The BL will provide a general introduction to the Library’s Security, Operations, and Health and Safety policies.  The co-supervisor and other curators in the Arts and Humanities department will provide training in manuscript handling, use of the catalogues, palaeography, etc. There will be the opportunity to attend training courses and seminars offered to BL staff, including workshops offered by the BL’s 21st-Century Curatorship programme.

Person Specification

Essential skills, qualities and knowledge

  • A first class or upper second class honours degree in a relevant discipline. Candidates would normally be expected to hold a Master’s degree in a relevant area by October 2012
  • Knowledge of at least one of the following research areas: seventeenth- or eighteenth-century history; intellectual history; history of science; history of collecting; French literature; English literature.
  • Experience of undertaking archival research.
  • Ability to work critically with secondary literature.
  • Ability to collaborate with the British Library in order to undertake research and to participate in programmes of public engagement.
  • Ability to be self-motivated, well-organized, and to respond to constructive criticism.
  • Willingness to take a full part in the KCL postgraduate community, and the research activities in the School of History at KCL and at the British Library.

Desirable skills, qualities and knowledge

  • Familiarity with current scholarship on the Republic of Letters, the history of scholarship, and the history of collecting.
  • French and/or Latin.
  • Experience of organizing public engagement events in a museum or similar setting.

Please note:

The AHRC has strict residential eligibility criteria governing the students that can be nominated for this award. If you are not a British citizen and/or not usually resident in the UK (and have not been for the past three years), please check your eligibility and discuss this with the project supervisors so that your eligibility can be determined.

Application Process

To apply for this studentship you must prepare a cv, two references, an academic transcript and a 1000 word statement of purpose which should explain why you would be interested in undertaking the studentship and what experience and skills you would bring to the post. Most importantly, it should provide a response to the project details outlined above and explain how you would propose to take the research forward.

Then:

i. Email Dr Anne Goldgar (a.goldgar@kcl.ac.uk) by 29th June 2012 with an expression of interest in the studentship and attaching your 1000-word Statement of Purpose.

ii. By 29th June 2012 submit an application to the King’s College London MPhil/PhD programme via MyApplication and including a clear note in the research proposal section that you are applying for the “Reconnecting Sloane project”.

For further details of the application process see the King’s College London online prospectus.

All short-listed applicants will be interviewed (either face-to-face or, in the case of overseas candidates, by telephone) and applicants must be available for interview on Thursday 19th July 2102. Any particular requirements for the interview will be communicated when shortlisted candidates are contacted in early July.

 

Doctoral Studentship 2. Putting Nature in a Box: Sloane’s Vegetable Substances (Supervised by Dr Charlie Jarvis, Natural History Museum, and Professor Miles Ogborn, Queen Mary University of London)

 This project investigates Sloane’s collecting of objects by examining his unique, and largely unstudied, collection of ‘Vegetable Substances.’ Held by the NHM along with the Sloane herbaria, this comprises some 12,000 specimens of vegetable matter (and other items) in individually produced, numbered and (sometimes elaborately) labelled boxes which Sloane had made specifically to house and display his collection. The aims of the project are: a) to provide the first systematic survey of the collection using the manuscript catalogue Sloane compiled for it; b) to examine the specimens, the boxes and their labels to learn how this collections of objects was constructed and used in the making of natural knowledge.

In understanding knowledge of natural history as a cultural practice much more attention has been paid to writing about natural history and to botanical illustration than to the making of 3D collections of objects or specimens. The ‘Vegetable Substances’ collection offers a unique opportunity to understand the material culture of these 3D artefacts of natural knowledge – a multiplicity of brightly coloured and variously labelled boxes of all shapes and sizes – in relation to Sloane’s own extensive production of textual and visual material.

The catalogue-based survey will be used to define the basic outlines of the collection and to specify parts of it for further work. This will consider: categories of object (e.g. seeds); when items were collected; where they came from (e.g. attention might usefully be paid to Sloane’s Caribbean or Oriental collections); or by whom they were collected. Work on the collection will pay particular attention to questions of material culture, using appropriate object-based methodologies to answer the following research questions:

a) How were these specimens made into a collection (how were they boxed, labelled and catalogued)?

b) What does the labelling and cataloguing of the specimens reveal about the forms of natural knowledge that shaped and were shaped by the collection?

c) What aesthetic and representational traditions were involved in making and using the collection?

 The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in London is internationally recognised for its dual role as a centre of excellence in scientific research and as a leading exponent in the presentation of natural history to the general public through its programme of exhibitions and learning activities. Over 4.4 million people visited the Museum in 2010. Three hundred scientists curate and undertake research upon the Museum’s world-class collections of some 70 million zoological, botanical, palaeontological and mineralogical specimens. Research is organised around six major themes including biodiversity, evolution and ecosystems. Modern (as opposed to fossil) specimens in the Museum’s collections date from the late 16th century to the present and have been collected by explorers, physicians, traders, soldiers, sailors, scientists, travellers and also many amateurs throughout the world, from land and sea. These specimens, as well as a collection of 500,000 pieces of artwork, and extensive archive and manuscript collections, have long been recognised as having both scientific and cultural significance. In recognition of this, the Museum has recently established a Centre for Arts and Humanities Research (CAHR) to support interdisciplinary research into the historical, cultural, social and economic significance of its collections. With an Advisory Board including distinguished academics from the arts and humanities research environment, the Centre is the Museum’s focal point for innovative interdisciplinary research.

 

Queen Mary, University of London

The studentship will be based in the School of Geography, QMUL. The School of Geography is recognized as an international centre for excellence in research. The School was ranked joint first in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, with three-quarters of our research assessed as world-leading/internationally excellent. We are a School also known for our friendly, collegial and welcoming ethos. Research students are integral to the School’s research culture, and contribute to our record of research excellence. Our Graduate School has grown significantly over the past decade or so. Alongside students taking one of our five Master’s degrees, the School is home to some 45 PhD students. The successful applicant would be part of the Culture, Space and Power research group, which has a record of extensive and collaborative research in relevant areas.

 

The Studentship

The award will cover university tuition fees and provide the standard AHRC maintenance award for three years (currently £15,590 per year). In addition, the student will receive research support from the Natural History Museum of up to £1000 pa for three years and £500 in the fourth year.

Supervision and Training

The supervisors for the studentship are Professor Miles Ogborn (School of Geography, QMUL) and Dr Charlie Jarvis (Centre for Arts and Humanities Research, Natural History Museum). Supervisions will be held fortnightly for the first six months, and monthly thereafter. There will also be three-monthly meetings of the entire programme team for the duration of the programme. Students will participate in QMUL’s graduate school training programme as well as receiving source-specific training via the research programme. In the first two years of the programme there will be four annual student workshops on specific archival skills and relevant research themes rotating between the partner institutions to ensure a full awareness of the broader intellectual context of the project and the importance of cross-institutional connections.

While studying in the Natural History Museum the student will be based in the Centre for Arts and Humanities Research (CAHR) and will participate in the Centre’s activities, contributing to an exciting interdisciplinary research community. There is a large community of Ph.D students and post-doctoral researchers in the Museum who have an active programme of scientific and social activities in and around the Museum. The student will have an allocated desk space, access to a computer, an email account, access to the internet and NHM intranet, databases, phone and standard office equipment. S/he will have access to our libraries and archives, and specimen collections (as relevant and appropriate), and will be issued with a staff pass. This will give access to NHM staff facilities and benefits including a wide range of seminars, workshops, some training courses, the staff canteen (subsidised), free entry to special exhibitions at NHM and at a range of other national museums, and discounts in the Museum’s shops.

Person Specification

Essential skills, qualities and knowledge

  • A first class or upper second class honours degree in a relevant discipline. Candidates would normally be expected to hold a Master’s degree in a relevant area by October 2012.
  • Knowledge of at least one of the following research areas: history of science, history of knowledge, early modern history, cultural geography, design history/history of collections, material culture.
  • Experience of undertaking historical research.
  • Ability to work critically with secondary literature.
  • Ability to collaborate with the Natural History Museum in order to undertake research and to participate in programmes of public engagement.
  • Ability to be self-motivated, well-organized, and to respond to constructive criticism.
  • Willingness to take a full part in the QMUL postgraduate community, and the research activities in the School of Geography at QMUL and at the Natural History Museum.

Desirable skills, qualities and knowledge

  • Familiarity with current scholarship on early modern natural history.
  • Knowledge of museum studies.
  • Experience of organizing public engagement events in a museum or similar setting.

Please note:

The AHRC has strict residential eligibility criteria governing the students that can be nominated for this award. If you are not a British citizen and/or not usually resident in the UK (and have not been for the past three years), please check your eligibility and discuss this with the project supervisors so that your eligibility can be determined.

Application Process

Candidates should complete a QMUL postgraduate application form for the School of Geography (PhD Geography – Semester 1 start) and submit it either online or by post. You will need to include a CV, two references, academic transcript and a 1000 word statement of purpose which should explain why you would be interested in undertaking the studentship and what experience and skills you would bring to the post. Most importantly, it should provide a response to the project details outlined above and explain how you would propose to take the research forward.

To be considered for this studentship your application must be received by Queen Mary’s Admissions and Recruitment Office no later than 4pm on 29th June 2012.

All short-listed applicants will be interviewed (either face-to-face or, in the case of overseas candidates, by telephone) and applicants must be available for interview on Thursday 19th July 2102. Any particular requirements for the interview will be communicated when shortlisted candidates are contacted in early July.

Applications may be submitted in hard copy to The Admissions and Recruitment Office, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, United Kingdom.

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