In this guest blog, Natalie Cox, doctoral candidate at Warwick University reflects on her recent AHRC International Placement Scheme Fellowship at The Huntington Library, California.
With the Californian sun blazing down, I was welcomed through the wrought iron entrance gates by the gold letters declaring “The Huntington Library” and led down a grand driveway by a lush procession of palm trees and an array of flowering plants. What a beautiful start to my first day as an AHRC International Placement Scheme (IPS) Research Fellow, and one I was to enjoy everyday between January and April this year. How did I get here? Well, I was the recipient of a three-month AHRC-funded IPS fellowship at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. My project was to ‘travel through text’ with famed explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton and see how he read textual sources in his personal library, which is held at the Huntington.
Based at the Munger Research Centre, the reading rooms quickly became familiar and friendly spaces. I joined a lively research community and was encouraged to make trans-Atlantic connections, mixing with prestigious researchers at the Library’s weekly coffee afternoons, working group lunches and evening socials. The Huntington has a strong core of PhD students from local universities who gave helpful advice on researching and living in CA (the burning issue being the best place to get ice cream!). I developed a strong working relationship with Rare Books Curator, Alan Jutzi, as he took an enthusiastic interest in my project and was always available to answer my queries, even seeking my opinion on newly catalogued items. The greatest privilege of working at the Huntington was being surrounded by 120 acres of the most beautiful botanical gardens. The scenery was spectacular. My working days were enlightened by sun soaked lunches and creativities were sparked by walking through the glorious landscapes – my favourite place to wander was the lily ponds.
I lived close to the Library in a house with a pool in Northern Pasadena that I shared with two professional actors, two cats and a dog. It had great transport links and, with new friends from Library, I was able to experience the diverse and entertaining culture of California. I found myself in the audience for late night talk shows, attended my first baseball game, visited many museums and escaped to the beach. Going further afield, I took a whirlwind trip to Vegas and drove the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco.
Being at the Huntington was a wonderful experience that was so much more than three months of reading in the CA sunshine. It has added a great wealth of knowledge to my PhD by providing a unique case study using materials I could not access anywhere else. I hold a Collaborative Doctoral Award with Warwick University and the Royal Geographical Society and undertaking this Fellowship has enabled me to enhance this collaboration through forging an international network of colleagues and friends. My conversations with the Curator have continued since my return to the UK and there is definitely scope to build a larger project from this research beyond my PhD.
Discover more about my CA adventure: textualtraveller.wordpress.com. Tweeting @nataliercox
Natalie Cox, University of Warwick
This year’s round of the International Placement Scheme (IPS) is now open for applications. Please see the AHRC website for more information (http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/funding/opportunities/current/international-placement-scheme-2017/)
The IPS scheme is an annual programme providing Research Fellowships to AHRC/ESRC-funded doctoral students, early career researchers and doctoral-level research assistants. The IPS scheme offers dedicated access to the internationally renowned collections/ programmes/ expertise held at seven world-leading, international institutions:
Harry Ransom Center (HRC), The University of Texas at Austin, USA
The Huntington Library, California, USA
The Library of Congress (LoC), Washington DC, USA
National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU), Japan
Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA), Shanghai, China
Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA
The Yale Center for British Art (YCBA), Connecticut, USA