Research beyond borders


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Transnational Italies Exhibition

Having opened at the British School in Rome on 26th October during the conference on Transnational Italies: Mobility, Subjectivities and Modern Italian Cultures, the exhibition “Beyond Borders. Transnational Italy” is now travelling to Italian Cultural Institute in London at the beginning of December (through until 14th January 2017) and then, in the course of 2017, to various places within the world.

It aims to follow the itinerary traced by researchers within the project (New York, Melbourne, Turin, and possibly Addis Ababa and Buenos Aires).

The conference and exhibition are part of the AHRC funded project, ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures’.

More information on the ongoing projects tour can be found on the above website.

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Annotated almanacs in the Huntington Library

Cacti Gardens at the Huntingdon. Courtesy of Catherine Evans

Cacti Gardens at the Huntingdon. Courtesy of Catherine Evans

In this latest International Placement Scheme (IPS) Blog, Catherine Evans, an IPS Fellow, talks “Annonated Almanacs”.

I didn’t start a PhD to see the world. However, I must have had Dr. Seuss floating around my head when I heard about the AHRC International Placement Scheme: “the more you read the more you will know, the more that you learn the more places you’ll go”. A call to always scour departmental emails perhaps? Whatever it is, I’m glad that Seuss spurred me to apply for the IPS scheme. I was lucky enough to be awarded a four-month fellowship at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. The Huntington is one of the largest research libraries in North America, specialising particularly in the English Renaissance. With collections of over 420,000 rare books, and 7 million manuscripts, I assumed that this would be a daunting and challenging place to work. However, the last four months I have spent working at the Huntington have shown me that the most imposing of institutions can also be extremely welcoming.

I began my PhD around a year ago, moving to the University of Sheffield to study with Emma Rhatigan and Marcus Nevitt. My thesis examines the sensory experience of time in early religious literature from 1530-1660. Critics have often asserted that the early modern period was characterised by a drastic change in the perception of time, moving from a cyclical understanding of the calendar marked by religious festivals to a linear, proto-capitalist progression. My project seeks to nuance this construction, considering how early modern authors and divines engaged the senses in their approach to temporally inflected religious problems, such as predestination and the conditions of bodily resurrection.

Chinese gardens at the Huntington . Courtesy of Catherine Evans

Chinese gardens at the Huntington . Courtesy of Catherine Evans

Whilst at the Huntington, I have taken a break from looking at early modern psalm translations and sermons to undertake a focused survey of the library’s holdings of annotated almanacs. This was the first piece of focused archival research I have carried out, so I was somewhat apprehensive about how best to start. However, the curators at the library were incredibly helpful and giving of their time. They talked me through the various finding aids, and even ran searches using a staff only online catalogue to help me identify all the almanacs with annotations within the collection. I’d be expecting to find evidence within the almanacs of how people organised their time, assuming that this form would lend itself to creating a more ordered, linear view of the progression of time. However, in the process of my research I found that almanacs paradoxically offered a space in which to pleat the fabric of time, with annotators often writing against the books’ projected uses.

Page from T. Hill 1571 almanac, with zodiacal man. Courtesy of Catherine Evans

Page from T. Hill 1571 almanac, with zodiacal man. Courtesy of Catherine Evans

Although the collections were extremely engrossing, the excitement of LA and beauty of California were too great to resist, and I’m happy that I made the most of my time in the area to explore further. Weekend trips to San Diego, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas with other fellows were a highlight, as well as visiting Yosemite and exploring the beaches of Orange County. Although LA can be a tricky city to navigate, being here for such an extended period of time meant that it was easy to get to know different neighbourhoods. Although the Huntington is based in San Marino, the majority of fellows live in Alhambra or Pasadena, only a few miles away from Echo Park (the Peckham of LA, according to a man met in an arcade game bar) and Highland Park, home to Donut Friend, which became a weekly fixture! LA is also overflowing with museums and galleries, ranging from monumental LACMA to the tiny yet moving Museum of Broken Relationships.

The IPS fellows were warmly welcomed into the research community at the library, with Steve Hindle and Catherine Wehrey-Miller both working hard to include us in events and help us make the most of our trips. Whilst I was in residence, I was able to attend two fantastic, wide-ranging conferences: Ben Jonson 1616-2016, and Early Modern Literary Geographies. There was also a busy programme of Brown Bag talks, monthly seminars by the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, and public lectures. These were a great opportunity to expand my academic horizons. It’s easy to become very insular whilst working on a thesis, but meeting other academics and grad student working on topics from LA bibliographic history to the pre-history of photography, and discussing their work made me more aware of the connections that can exist between the most unlikely sounding subjects.

8 of the AHRC fellows with Steve Hindle, Director of Research at the Huntington . Courtesy of Martha Benedict

8 of the AHRC fellows with Steve Hindle, Director of Research at the Huntington . Courtesy of Martha Benedict

Although the archival work I did at the Huntington was fascinating, and will form a cornerstone of my thesis, making personal connections and becoming a part of such a vibrant and stimulating community of scholars was also extremely beneficial. Un-official readers’ happy hour gave an opportunity to sample all the bars of Pasadena and Tuesday tea breaks created an occasion to chat shop over cookies and coffee. Other fellows and visitors to the library were extremely generous with their time, making suggestions of different avenues to explore, books to read, and people to contact. Presenting my work at one of the lunch time talks was a daunting but worthwhile experience, as I was able get feedback from scholars with a wealth of knowledge about early modern religious practice.

Leaving the UK shortly after the referendum results, and being in the US for the Presidential election added a bittersweet edge to the placement. I am extremely privileged to be able to travel so freely with my work: the combination of a British passport, an inoffensive research project, and an eminent host organisation easing my way. It feels as though these opportunities, to connect with people from all over the world and help form new, if transient, communities will be increasingly rare both within academia and in all walks of life. I had some extremely heartening discussions, with academics from all over the world, who shared how their own careers and lives have been shaped by taking part in international fellowships. I can only hope that I will be able to heed their advice, and always remember the importance of reaching out to visitors and creating supportive communities wherever I go in my future career.

For me, this fellowship will surely rank as one of the highlights of my doctoral experience. Living in a beautiful pool house on a road where wild peacocks roam, cycling in the sun each morning to work in a wood-panelled library surrounded by 120 acres of immaculately manicured gardens, discounted coffee and tacos on site… All this made a welcome change from the normal PhD life of running between library and seminars in the rain, clutching a carrier bag full of books to your chest to ward off evil spirits. Most importantly, I was able to extend my academic horizons and produce some new research using little studied material. Oh, and get a fabulous tan.

 

Lake Tioga. Yosemite. Courtesy of Catherine Evans

Lake Tioga. Yosemite. Courtesy of Catherine Evans

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


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My Kluge Odyssey

The following is a guest post by Joe Ryan-Hume, 2014 Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellow at The John W. Kluge Center. Reproduced with gracious thanks to Joe Ryan-Hume and Jason Steinhauer of the John Kluge Centre.  This is the original text, so some times and dates may be dated, but Joe has also added some additional comments, and advice for anyone applying, at the bottom of this Blog. 

In 2014 I had the pleasure of completing an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded fellowship at The John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress (LOC). A year has passed since then, but this summer I found myself back once again at the Center, drawn like a moth to a flame, walking by the same desk I occupied all those months ago. In the interim, I was able to travel widely, from a fellowship at the University of Hong Kong to one at the British Library. I had plenty of time to reflect on my experience at the Kluge Center. I hope to use this space to illuminate why I believe the work that the Kluge Center does is incredibly important, and for young scholars, deeply formative.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

I am a current third-year Ph.D. student based in the Department of History at the University of Glasgow. My thesis questions the notion of conservative ascendancy and the so-called ‘Reagan revolution’ in 1980s America by reinterpreting the impact of liberalism at the time. In order to effectively survey liberalism during this tumultuous decade, it was essential that I traveled to the U.S. to examine primary sources. And what better place to do so than at the Library of Congress, looming in the shadow of Thomas Walter’s famous Capitol dome and surrounded by a wealth of material. Fortunately, the Research Council that funds my Ph.D. in the United Kingdom, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), offers fellowships at the Kluge Center as part of its International Placement Scheme. From March to September of 2014, I was lucky enough to hold one.

My time at the Kluge Center was beyond compare. I was able to consult a range sources, from the papers of retired Senators (particularly the Daniel P. Moynihan Papers) to the organizational papers of key liberal interest groups at the time (the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights [LCCR] papers are fantastic), which have proved essential to the range and depth of my argument. Not only that, but the arrangement of the Center provides the

Brown Bag Lunch

Brown Bag Lunch

most conducive environment to network with scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds and foster cross-collaboration projects. The Kluge Center actively encourages such opportunities, and during my time there I embraced as many as possible. From brownbag lunches to organized events, the Center provides a stimulating and thought-provoking environment to work within. Working with people from a range of disciplines, from archaeology to psychology, allowed me to cast a far wider net in my research than I thought possible and tackle some of its problems in a completely different way. Since leaving the Center, I have been able to tap this resource in a number of ways: from having people in different disciplines critique my work to attending a range of events I never would have before. On returning to Glasgow University, I also helped convince department heads that an ‘Americanist’ group-made up of postgraduates from a range of disciplines would be an effective way of fostering cross-collaboration within the institution. From Scottish ‘brown bag’ lunches to famous happy hour gatherings, this group has proved a success. Indeed, by working together, the Glasgow ‘Americanist’ group has recently organized a conference,”Collaboration in America and Collaborative Work in American Studies”, to take place at the University of Glasgow in December 2015.

 

The author Joe Ryan-Hume (far left) participates in a panel at the Spring History Symposium at The University of Hong Kong, May 7, 2015. Photo provided by the author.

The author Joe Ryan-Hume (far left) participates in a panel at the Spring History Symposium at The University of Hong Kong, May 7, 2015. Photo provided by the author.

My particular journey over the past year is a testament to the Kluge Center. Having never really embraced networking in my first year of postgraduate study, on returning from the Center I embraced as many networking opportunities as I could. One particularly sticks out. Glasgow University recently established links with the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and set up a fund to send postgraduate and early career researchers back and forth. Seeing this as a great opportunity to showcase my work and network with others outside of my institution–almost as far away as one could get from it, in fact–I applied. As the first person to win the award, I gleefully headed off to Hong Kong as somewhat of a pioneer. My time at HKU proved both professionally and personally invaluable. Not only did I establish research links with various scholars at HKU’s history department, but I participated in two organized conferences as well as a workshop catered to HKU postgraduate students. Indeed, I helped co-organize one of the conferences on “Women, Gender, and Efforts for Equality: Comparative Asian-Western Perspectives” given my recent work on women in the Reagan Era, while the other was a postgraduate symposium that attracted scholars from all over the world. In fact, I actually met a fellow from the 2015 Kluge cohort, Pete Millwood, at the symposium who was yet to begin his tenure at the Library of Congress. Knowing that I was planning on returning, we swapped contact details. It is true what they say; it is a small world after all!

Alongside embracing opportunities to network, I also started to work with a number of former Kluge scholars upon return to the U.K. Specifically, I co-organized a panel with AHRC Fellow Will Riddington at a major international conference in June 2015. Meeting up at the University of East Anglia for the Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) annual conference, we convened a panel titled “Body Politics in the 1980s: Grassroots Organising on the Left and the Right in the Reagan Era.” Given its success, we have since decided to ‘take our show on the road,’ and have discussed co-authoring an article together based on it. I hope to collaborate with Will on a number of other projects going forward, from potentially arranging our own conference to collating a co-edited book. Likewise, I met another former fellow, Matthew Wright, at an interview for a seconded government internship. We were able to help one another out on that day because of our Kluge connection. Finally, I made a number of lasting friendships and continue to keep in contact–and often visit–former Kluge fellows all over the world.

Jefferson Memorial, Washington

Jefferson Memorial, Washington

This summer I returned to the Library of Congress when my thesis required further excavation of their available manuscript sources. From an examination of my initial research completed in 2014, it became clear that a number of figures whose papers are housed at the Library had played crucial roles in protecting liberalism’s brightest jewel, Social Security, from conservative dissection in the 1980s. With a new case study titled “Social Security and the 1982 Midterms,” I sought to use the collections at the Library (particularly the Moynihan papers) to show how and why a strong liberal defense of Social Security in 1982, driven by Moynihan in the Senate and supplemented by the activism of liberal interest groups, dissuaded the Reagan administration from attempting major revisions and had a dramatic impact on the 1982 midterms. Returning to the Library allowed me to carry out all of the research required for this chapter over a four-week period.

By providing a unique opportunity to learn about other research methods and practices whilst also enabling me to expand my knowledge and understanding of my topic through serious academic discussion, the Kluge Center was/is an invaluable part of my academic narrative. Each time I’ve visited, I have returned to Glasgow both with more confidence about my project and more motivation to put pen to paper. Having never really left Scotland for more than a couple of weeks before my fellowship, moving to the U.S. seemed a daunting prospect in 2014. But in the Kluge Center, I found a home.

Writing on 25th October 2016 Joe kindly added:

“‘If the Kluge Center was the destination, then the AHRC was the vehicle. Without both the financial and organisational support of the AHRC, then such an experience would have been impossible. And without the opportunity to consult the raft of primary sources housed at the Library of Congress (LOC), then the range and depth of my Ph.D. would have suffered greatly. Indeed, my research findings at the LOC were fundamental to the development of my thesis as a whole, which, given the subject nature, could only be completed with access to specific manuscript collections and digitized databases – the LOC was the only institution to house comprehensive access to them both. The IPS Award effectively allowed me to carry out all of the research required for my thesis over a five-month period, while also providing a stimulating environment to share ideas and spark new friendships. I sub-rented a room on Capitol Hill, walked past Thomas Walter’s famous dome every morning, and immersed myself in the politics of Washington in the balmy summer of 2014. If you are considering applying, then what are you waiting for? It will be a transformative experience, both professionally and personally. And use the network of previous fellows for advice. I have been fortunate enough to help a number of students – both at the University of Glasgow and beyond – apply for the scheme since I’ve returned home. Starting the application early and being as specific as possible about the collections you intend to consult – and importantly, how they are indispensable to your critical analysis and how they will strengthen your thesis greatly as a result – will improve your application form. Good Luck.’

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

 

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


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A Flurry of AHRC International Opportunities

International Placement Scheme (IPS)

The IPS call is open – as well as continuing with opportunities to visit some fantastic organisations in the USA and Japan, this year we have an exciting new host – the Shanghai Theatre Academy. The IPS scheme enables doctoral students, doctoral level researchers and Early Career Researchers to undertake a fellowship of 2-6 months. More information is available on the AHRC website and the deadline is 15th January 2015.

If you want to know what being a IPS fellow is like, we have several blog posts from previous award holders about their experiences, just click on the International Placement Scheme Tag to read more . We are always open to new suggestions of hosts, if you have a suggestion of somewhere that should be a part of this scheme, please do comment. One our current hosts, Harry Ransom center was previously suggested via a comment so it can work!

Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation Workshop in India

The AHRC, Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) and the British Library are organising a workshop on ‘Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation in India’. Funding is available for 20 UK based researchers to attend. Expression of Interest must be submitted by 4pm 30th January 2015. For more information please see the AHRC website.

International Co-Investigator continues

The AHRC pilot for International Co-investigator (Co-I) has been extended until 31st December 2016. We are very pleased with how this is progressing and have extended this to allow us to fully review all aspects of international Co-I on a grant through both application and award. International Co-Investigators are eligible on research grants, research networking and follow on fund applications (other schemes may also allow this but this is decided on a case by case basis so please consult call guidance).

snowflake


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“Happy Hunting!”: Adventures of an AHRC IPS Fellow at the Huntington Library

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. 

 

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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.

 

photo%202Based 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.

My home office

My home office

 

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.

 

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Zuma Beach, Malibu

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.

 

 

The Paris Hotel, Las Vegas

The Paris Hotel, Las Vegas

Dodgers Stadium, LA

Dodgers Stadium, LA

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


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Researching Heifetz at the Library of Congress

In this guest blog, Dr Dario Sarlo explains how the chance to work with unique archival material at the Library of Congress provided him with opportunities for international research collaborations and to share his research worldwide.

It all started back in 2006 with a letter from the AHRC – well, a rather bulky packet, actually. I had won an AHRC doctoral award at Goldsmiths, University of London to support my research into the legacy of the violinist Jascha Heifetz. When I accepted my doctoral award, I had no idea just how it would shape my career.

Heifetz 1A year into my PhD, I won another AHRC competition. This time, for a 6-month International Placement Scheme (IPS) Fellowship to study the archives of the Jascha Heifetz Collection at the Library of Congress’ John W. Kluge Centre. I had always hoped to spend time in this extraordinary institution,so the IPS Fellowship was a perfect opportunity. During my IPS Fellowship I examined tens of thousands of archival items, and the work I did became the basis of my thesis, which I completed in 2011.

I made many useful and rewarding international connections whilst in the USA, resulting in two exciting side projects: I co-edited a translation of a 600-page Heifetz biography by the Russian author Galina Kopytova, which was published by Indiana University Press in 2013 (Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia): I also provided extensive research for a New York film producer’s documentary Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler.

Although I achieved everything I set out to on my AHRC IPS Fellowship, there was still a great deal of research I wanted to carry out at the Library on Congress, so after I received my doctorate, I applied for one of the Kluge Center’s own Postdoctoral Fellowships. I am the first AHRC IPS Fellow to return with this award and I am sure that my experience as an AHRC IPS Fellow was a factor in me winning the Kluge Centre Fellowship.

During my 2013-14 Kluge Centre Fellowship, I have returned to the Library of Congress’ archives to complete a monograph based on my doctoral research: The Performance Style of Jascha Heifetz will be published by Ashgate in 2015.Image

Last month, as part of my Kluge Centre Fellowship, I organised and participated in an international panel discussion on Heifetz. I was joined at the event, which took place here at the Library of Congress, by two distinguished guests: Ayke Agus from Los Angeles (author of Heifetz as I Knew Him, 2001) and Arthur Vered from London (author of Jascha Heifetz, 1986). Rare Heifetz materials I have been researching here were exhibited to the public. The whole event was filmed and will be webcast by the Library of Congress – an incredible platform from which to share my research with an international audience.

None of this could have happened without the AHRC and the IPS award! The opportunities that the International Placement Scheme offered are still impacting on my career 7 years later.

Dario Sarlo

www.dariosarlo.com @DarioSarlo

The 2014/15 AHRC IPS Library of Congress Fellows will be announced in July 2014. More information on the AHRC International Placement Scheme and its host institutions can be found on the AHRC website.


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Notes from the Huntington Library, California

headshotJoan Redmond is a History PhD student from Dublin, studying seventeenth-century Irish history at University of Cambridge. From July to October 2013, Joan was researching at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, as part of the AHRC International Placement Scheme.

While I was packing up my College room and getting ready for a four month research trip to California, the question I was asked most often was, ‘Why are you going to California for research?!’. Yes, Los Angeles may seem like an odd destination for a student of seventeenth century Ireland and its religious changes, but I was bound for the Huntington Library, a semi-hidden treasure of rare books and manuscripts, located in the rarefied surroundings of San Marino, a prosperous city just north of LA in the San Gabriel Valley.

My research focuses on the period 1641-1660 in Ireland. It was a time of great rebellion, religious division and civil war across Ireland, England and Scotland. Pretty exciting stuff for a historian, right? And from July, I was bringing my warring Irish subjects to southern California, and to the Huntington.

Japanese_GardenThe Huntington actually consists not just of the library, but of an extensive art collection and acres of beautiful, themed gardens: thus there is the famous Japanese Garden, the strange and creepy Desert Garden, and the multitudinous varieties of roses in the Rose Garden (my particular favourites being the Anne Boleyn, Dolly Parton, and of course the St Patrick roses). The Huntington provides a unique environment for scholars, ranging from the compulsory 11.45-1pm lunch break, to free coffee and biscuits on Tuesday afternoons.

Huntington_LibraryThe Huntington was founded when railway tycoon Henry E. Huntington decided to build a winter house for himself and his wife Arabella in sunny California; after their deaths, the house and gardens were left in trust, as well as the extensive rare book and manuscript collections that Henry had gathered across his lifetime, and Arabella’s art collection. Together, these form the academic paradise that is the Huntington, one visited by thousands of tourists every year, but also catering for several hundred Readers, there to consult the scholarly materials, and top up their Vitamin D.

1641_rebellionThe major collection for my work was the Hastings Irish Papers, a vast collection spanning from the late sixteenth into the eighteenth century. These papers are a treasure trove of information about seventeenth-century Ireland, with glimpses into everyday life and high politics. Personal highlights included a disputed marriage case involving a recently widowed, conveniently wealthy woman, in which one of the chief witnesses was a little boy ‘hiding in the chimney-piece’; what happened subsequently we unfortunately do not know, as a response to the letter describing this case does not survive.

Grand_CanyonMy four months at the Huntington also provided ample opportunity to experience American life, and to partake of that great US tradition, the roadtrip. I attended two baseball games, one on each coast, and now have my loyalties divided between the LA Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox. Los Angeles and southern California is also home to a huge diversity of cuisines, with Mexican and all varieties of Asian being especially well represented; I consider it a particular achievement that I did not come home about 10 stones heavier! I saw the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yosemite, and San Francisco, all fantastic in their own way, and each contributing to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Dodger_StadiumDespite the impression of non-stop fun and holidays, I can assure you (and my supervisor!) that there was also work done: the documents I found and the information gathered have provided some critical context for my PhD. I am very grateful to the AHRC for the opportunity to go to the Huntington, and to everyone who looked after me while I was there. It has been an incredible experience on many different fronts, and one I will genuinely never forget.

The AHRC’s annual International Placement Scheme (IPS) provides funded research fellowships of up to 6 months at world-leading international research institutions such as The Huntington Library, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. Applications for IPS fellowships are invited until 15th January 2014.

Talk to current IPS fellows and AHRC staff in a Twitter chat from 2-3pm on Wed 11th December @ahrcpress, #AHRCchat.