Tag Archives: University of Exeter

The Annual Heritage round up: The University of Exeter’s heritage achievements in the 2020/2021 academic year

The start of the 2020/2021 academic year marked the beginning of a new hybridity in the heritage sector. As the Coronavirus pandemic shut universities, museums and heritage sites across the UK, the sector launched a commitment to a new age of digital heritage that would prove essential for heritage practice over the next year.

Exhibiting, exploring and preserving heritage has shifted dramatically at the University of Exeter. Beginning with the Hidden Cities project, a collaborative project funded by the university and a number of heritage institutions across Europe, historical monuments and sites were brought to screens. App users were able to explore a series of European cities (including Exeter) and their histories from their isolation at home. At the time, co-creator Professor Fabrizio Nevola, Director of the Centre for Early Modern Studies at the university, said that the project illustrated the importance of digitizing heritage during the pandemic, in order to continue the investigation of spaces that were not accessible.

Where physical heritage work was halted, digital heritage practice allowed for new creative projects. As part of the Arts Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and BBC series, ‘Culture in Quarantine,’ Exeter Professor Naomi Sykes and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Sean Doherty co-produced an animated film that told the story of one of Britain’s most mysterious animals — the hare. The entire project, which drew artistically from the 1978 film Watership Down, was conducted remotely. The film can be watched via the BBC Arts and culture website.

As creative projects were digitised, so too were heritage events. In April 2021, PhD student Bradley Osborne and colleague Dr Arabella Currie led a virtual symposium on the work of Cornish-born author William Golding. Famous for his first novel Lord of the Flies (1954), some of Golding’s work is held in the university’s Special Collections and archives. In examining a range of papers by national and international academics, the digital event sought to reframe Golding’s work and re-establish it as a viable field of study for future scholars.

In addition to its literary heritage, the pandemic called for further exploration of the heritage within the walls of the university. This year, the Northcott Theatre hosted a virtual event exploring the stories of women newly discovered in the theatre’s archive collection. The live streamed event, which featured a panel of women who are developing Exeter’s current arts and cultural landscape, showcased stories that had been discovered as part of the archival project. From this, the event emphasised how the knowledge collected can be used to shape the future culture of Exeter and the South West.

On the Arts and Humanities front, the University was awarded £200,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to take arts and humanities research beyond higher education to drive social change. The award was given to Professor of Shakespeare and Early Modern Performance Studies, Pascale Aebischer, who will work with a huge range of academics throughout the UK on Covid-19 projects supported by the AHRC with over £16 million. The two-year programme will help connect, support and showcase over 70 AHRC projects which broadly cover three themes: the impact of Covid-19 on the cultural and creative sector; ethical, regulatory and human rights issues in responses to Covid-19; and communication and public health during the pandemic.

On partnership, the university has renewed and formed several Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) with south west heritage organisations over the past year. In September 2020, the university signed an MOU with The Charles Causley Trust, following previous work together as part of the Trust’s Festival of Arts and Literature, maximising the Causley Archive held in the University Special Collections and developing partnership working with English Heritage. The university also renewed its agreement with Cornwall Museum’s Partnership (CMP), signed a new partnership with the National Trust and with Wells Cathedral. An MOU with English Heritage is pending.

From January to May 2021, the University of Exeter worked with heritage partner The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) on a Strategic Priority Fund project to develop collaboration and the way in which heritage and culture is collated across the city with the City Council. In addition to this, alongside longstanding heritage partner Exeter Cathedral, the Digital Humanities Lab at the university successfully digitised the Exeter Book, a tenth-century anthology of poetry. In creating a new website, images of the ancient text are now accessible to view in incredible clarity. The launch of the digitised book took place over Zoom, with colleagues from the cathedral and the university present.

During the last academic year, the university have carried out six Professional Pathways internships and two Widening Participation (WP) internships, one of which has been extended until the Autumn.

To read more about the rise of digital heritage in the sector, see our recent blog pieces written by Exeter students: https://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/heritageexeter/blog/2021/07/14/in-the-age-of-virtual-heritage-do-museums-still-need-objects/. For heritage news at the University of Exeter, see: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/research/heritage/newsandevents/.

Q&A with Exeter Arts and Culture Co-ordinator, Naome Glanville, who tells us about the University’s art collection, current projects and her work.

Naome Glanville is an Arts and Culture Co-ordinator at the University of Exeter. As part of the Arts and Culture team, she looks after the university’s fine art collection and supports arts and culture projects and activities. Naome also writes articles for the Arts and Culture website, uses the fine art collection to support art history study and advises staff and students in planning exhibitions. 

To begin, can you elaborate on the importance of art commissions for the University?

The main aim of the University’s Arts and Culture strategy is to activate creativity, which involves supporting and the sharing of creativity both within and outside the University. We invite commissioned artists to make connections with research and researchers to inform their work and develop their practices, as well as invite researchers and academics to discover new perspectives to their work through interactions with creative practitioners. This potential for cross-fertilisation of ideas can enrich learning and impact for both parties.

The University of Exeter is an institute that values the arts, and the outputs of our arts commissions have been exciting and thought-provoking. They have ranged from exhibitions, soundscapes, movement with virtual reality headsets, to poetry and films. The commissions have supported the artistic community and increased opportunities for networking and learning.

Can you give an overview of the University’s Fine Art collection?

The University’s Fine Art collection consists of around two thousand items, including sculptures, paintings and prints. It includes works by Barbara Hepworth, Terry Frost, Bridget Riley, Newlyn artist Harold Harvey and a large number of 19thcentury engravings of JMW Turner works. Working with the collection means not only acquiring artworks but also caring for them. We have just developed a new policy for the development of the collection, so that we manage the collection in a more consistent, transparent and strategic way.

What is on display on campus and where can the collection be accessed online?

You may be aware of our sculpture walk on the Streatham Campus.

Figure, 1964 by Barbara Hepworth.

Credit: Barbara Hepworth ©Bowness, Photo: Courtesy University of Exeter ©John Melville

Although currently closed to the public, we look forward to a time when it will be safe for the public to tour the sculpture walk once again.  On our website www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk you can see images of all the sculptures in the walk, read about the works and download a map showing where the sculptures are. Many of the sculptures date from the 1960s and 1970s and complement the architecture of the University buildings. Each month we are shining a spotlight on one of our artworks from the collection on the Arts and Culture website, so look out for that.

Can you tell me about Arts and Culture’s current art commissions?

The current arts commission is an 18-month partnership project with University partner the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), called Here’s to Thee. The project seeks to uncover the complex ecology and cultures that surround the art of cider making. This fascinating project is being led by internationally renowned artist Simon Pope, who is collaborating with a team of creative practitioners and also academics at the University of Exeter. The project includes the display at RAMM of a wonderful ‘Wassail bowl’ made of local clay by ceramicist Abigail North. You can see more about Here’s to Thee and check out Simon’s video diaries here.

The In Company of Insects project looked really interesting, can you tell me about it?

In the Company of Insects was an 18-month project with award-winning poet Fiona Benson. Alongside sound artist Mair Bosworth, Benson recorded insect sounds and interviewed entomologists from the University of Exeter and beyond, who were able to shed light on the curious lifecycles and habits of insects. These were all drawn together with poems specially written by Fiona, to make a set of amazing, immersive soundscapes, that you can listen to on the Arts and Culture website. The project then reached out for more insect-related poetry through workshops. Poems composed by members of the public, school children and other poets were recorded and can be heard on the Arts and Culture website.

How have art commissions and projects been implicated by the pandemic?

The pandemic has of course affected the way our work has had to be conducted. Very soon after the first lockdown Arts and Culture initiated a series of 10 micro-commissions in partnership with other city arts organisations, entitled Hyperlocal which invited artists from Devon and Cornwall to create a digital artwork exploring the hyperlocal of their immediate domestic environments. After a public-call out, the 10 selected artists created very different responses to the confined world they found themselves in, including poems, illustrations, soundscapes and films. I am sure that they will be fascinating to revisit in years to come, as a record of life in lockdown.

To find out more about the work of Arts and Culture visit www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk and sign up for our regular Arts and Culture newsletter. Follow Arts and Culture on social media:

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