As the new academic year looms, academic staff within the University of Exeter are preparing for new visitors, new projects and new research.
A defining feature of Heritage practice at the University of Exeter is its scope. Through a combination of digital and physical heritage work, particularly in the last year, the preservation of heritage for future generations has become a focal point of heritage work. Encompassing a range of disciplines, heritage practice at the university continues to generate social, political and environmental conversations, as artefacts, research findings and literature help shape the cultural landscape of the south west.
Alongside this, the University of Exeter is part of a wider heritage network. It holds a number of Memorandum’s of Understanding (MoU’s) with heritage organisations in the south west, with a view to developing and generating projects and opportunities within the heritage space. Currently, the university has MoU’s with the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), Exeter Cathedral, Powderham Castle, South West Fed, The Charles Causley Trust, Wells Cathedral and Cornwall Museums Partnership. In addition, the University has a long standing partnership with the National Trust, that at present specifically focuses on environmental and cultural change, supporting wildlife renewal and improving wellbeing through nature. To find out more about Exeter’s partnerships, see the Exeter Heritage website.
Beginning with physical heritage at the university, you can visit the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum (BDCM), The Northcott Theatre and the Special Collections. Having reopened in May after being closed for several months, the BDCM is open for visitors every day between 10am and 5pm. Home to one of the largest collections of material on the moving image in Britain, the museum documents the development of optical entertainment from shadow-puppets and 17th century books on projection, to the most recent Hollywood blockbusters, including artefacts such as Magic Lanterns, rare books, prints, and an extensive variety of publicity materials. The academic research facility and accredited public museum commemorates British filmmaker Bill Douglas (1934-1991), whose work includes the Bill Douglas Trilogy (1972-78) and Comrades (1987).
Over at The Northcott Theatre, performances have returned, ranging from comedy stand-up shows to dance and drama productions. Having first opened its doors in November 1967 as the first arts centre in UK to have been built on university land, the Northcott quickly built a reputation as a venue that fostered new writing talent and pushed boundaries, playing a key role in the development of the careers of actors such as Celia Imrie, Robert Lindsay, Diana Rigg, Imelda Staunton, and John Nettles. September’s programme includes ‘The Three Musketeers – a Comedy Adventure’ and ‘Infinite ways home,’ a multisensory production that explores ritual, rave and human connection. All of Northcott Theatre’s events can be viewed via their website. The Theatre is located just prior to the top of Forum Hill.
Exeter’s rich literary history is preserved in the university’s Special Collections, which you can find in the Old Library. The Special Collections hold archives, rare books and manuscript resources covering all subject areas. Major highlights of the collection include Twentieth Century South West Writing, Literature and Visual Culture, Victorian Culture and Imperial Endeavour, Arab and Islamic Studies, and Religious and Parish book collections.
Famous writers held within the Archives, many of which were born in the south west, include Daphne du Maurier, Charles Causley, William Golding, Ted Hughes, Agatha Christie and Henry Williamson. Archive material from Special Collections can be viewed in the newly reopened Ronald Duncan Reading Room, Monday-Friday between 10 am and 5pm. Appointments must be made in advance by contacting .
In addition to the physical literary heritage at the university, the Digital Humanities Lab uses digital methods and practices to preserve material and further academic research, making literary texts more accessible and more widely understood. Their current projects include the Thomas Hardy Heritage project, a collaboration with Dorset Museum that has digitised Victorian writer Thomas Hardy’s letters, The Poetry of the Lancashire Cotton Famine, which aims to create a database of digitised poems from this period, and the Exeter Book Project, a joint project with Exeter Cathedral that has produced a new website with accessible images of the ancient anthology of poetry.
Look out for more information via the Exeter Heritage website or follow us on Twitter @UoEHeritage, for updates on the #heritage events to check out during this year’s Fresher’s Week.