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Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 445.15K | Year: 2015

This project will investigate the ways in which historic artefacts are tools for contemplating the past, for remembering collective practices of ethnic identity, and for contributing to cultural revitalization processes, particularly in areas that have experienced political and ceremonial suppression. The regional focus is the Sakha Republic (Yakutiia), Russian Federation, and the centrepiece of the project is a unique mammoth ivory model of ysyakh, the summer festival of the Sakha (Yakut) people, which has been in the collection of project partner, the British Museum (BM), since 1867. During the Soviet era, many Sakha cultural expressions, including ysyakh, were suppressed. Since the 1990s, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, cultural revitalization and attempts to establish political autonomy have generated considerable interest in these expressions and in the intersection of their historic and contemporary forms. Accessing Sakha historic artefacts, now scattered in museums worldwide, is key to these processes. While considerable work has been done in North America to link museum collections with descendent communities, there is virtually no scholarship regarding such projects in Russia. This project will thus be a model for developing inter-cultural relations between museums in the Russian Federation and beyond, and will contribute to better understanding cultural movements in post-Soviet states more broadly. Model of a Summer Camp depicts a scene from ysyakh and is the earliest known representation of this festival. Although it is regarded as a quintessentially Sakha work, few Sakha people have engaged directly with the model and it is not normally on public display. Through the exhibition of the model in project partner, the National Arts Museum of the Sakha Republic, Yakutsk, timed to coincide with the ysyakh celebrations of 2015, and associated archival and ethnographic research to explore its historical and contemporary relevance, we will: - explore the silencing of cultural memory during times of ideological oppression; - investigate the capacity of historic artefacts to support cultural revitalization; - examine the articulation of historic artefacts, cultural memory, narratives and silence and to ask how it might inform contemporary museum practice; - contribute to the professional development of museum colleagues in Russia and the UK through the exchange of curatorial expertise; - disseminate our research through a range of formats, e.g., scholarly and popular publications, conference presentations, two exhibitions, and a project website with educational resources in English, Russian and Sakha; - promote and strengthen relations between the UK and the Russian Federation through the first collaborative project involving cultural institutions in Britain and the Russian North. This project will engage stakeholders in the Sakha Republic, the UK, and internationally. The project team (Dr. Alison Brown, Dr. Tatiana Argounova-Low, and a postdoctoral Research Assistant) will work directly with contemporary artists utilising Sakha traditional forms, cultural practitioners, and ysyakh celebrants. Our research methods include archival research, artefact analysis, interviews, participation in ysyakh events, and observation and discussion of arts practices. The projects main societal impacts will be in the areas of culture and well-being. It also has the potential to influence museum practice. Beneficiaries include school, college and university students; artists; museum professionals; scholars in disciplines such as Anthropology, Museum Studies, Visual Culture, and History; the wider public with interests in other cultures and their artistic and ceremonial traditions.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 853.88K | Year: 2009

In place of writing, textiles in Andean civilizations were developed over millennia by visually literate populations to document and display complex data. Academic studies worldwide are intrigued by this massive cultural use of information display, yet limited in methods of approach. Drawing on new methodologies combining fieldwork, digital documentation, information visualization and ontology, this project develops a common language for understanding Andean cloth to be shared between Visual, Computer and Museum Studies. \n\nResearch to date has established that textiles bear messages. Some are understood; others are still inaccessible due to the incomplete data sets available for scrutiny, discontinuous time sequences of samples, and limited correlation with comparative materials from the ethnographic and historical record, and commentaries from living weavers. To overcome this, we opt for regional rather than local sampling procedures to give us greater access to materials, while our interdisciplinary approach promotes greater sample contextualization. \n\nThrough data mining and other web-based techniques, this wider sample contextualization will be articulated to a digital structural mapping of cloth. Our hypothesis is that weaving techniques, as conservative organising features, have ontological associations that can be mapped in a working grammar of textile design, and correlated with socio-cultural and historical data. Centred in a weavers perspective, our approach goes beyond the analysis of surface features of cloth to give precedence to its technical and structural properties. Existing software, adapted to express Andean cloths 3D nature, will feed into our database design, together with digital photos, video and text data. Our interface design gives priority to content-oriented access, and a graphical concept browser, to express this weaving perspective visually.\n\nDatabase documentation, building on the site at the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, Birkbeck College London (bbk.ac.uk/cilavs), will systematize visual textile information, permitting academic disciplines an ontology-based exploration of weaving structures that map the social semiotic relations between cultural practices and identities. Workshops with curators of European and Latin American collections will coordinate information collection, methods, and analysis. \n\nThe main project stages of data collection, analysis and organisation, articulated to innovative means of access and analysis, have broad cognitive and curatorial goals. A secondary applied aspect responds to concerns of regional weavers to defend their cultural patrimony from piracy, and introduce local weaving repertories into new educational curricula. Our software and database design will respond to both these needs. \n\nResearch context\nResearch in Bolivia, Peru and Chile, combined with museum research there and in the UK, focuses on 3 regions on the basis of previous ethnographic, archaeological and museological knowledge and contacts, and 3 time horizons: Tiwanaku, the Inka-early colony, and the contemporary.\n\nThis study is urgent. As a result of former educational trends, ignoring regional textile production in favour of an emerging global textile industry, modern forms of literacy, and out-migration from rural communities, younger generations no longer want to weave. Current NGO interventions too are changing regional design repertories, and hence historical continuities and identity questions. At the same time, contemporary politics are generating alternative educational demands that seek new identity-based curricula in a decolonizing context. Our ethnographic research concerns the cultural rescue of endangered weaving practices, while providing new methods to document and link them to emerging industries.\n


The site of Baker's Hole in the Ebbsfleet valley, Kent, is the best-known British Early Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 9-7) site, and has produced a substantial assemblage of Levallois artefacts. The history of this collection, however, has become confused over the years, with some suggestions that it was actually amassed through excavation. This paper reviews the history of investigations at the site, on the basis of archive letters and records, and demonstrates that it was clearly collected by quarry workers. This clarification has important implications for understanding human activity in the Ebbsfleet valley during late MIS 8/early MIS 7. © 2010 The Geologists' Association.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Fellowship | Award Amount: 256.16K | Year: 2008

The Money in Africa project in the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum is focusing on the history of money and trade in Africa, bringing together scholars from across disciplinary and national boundaries to, for the first time, produce a clear account of the state of knowledge in this important research area. Working with the Camden Black Parents and Teachers Association (CBPTA) we plan to use these research results and this new knowledge not only to further the academic study of the subject, but also to reach broader audiences through the creation of new educational resources and teacher support. This will mean that the important academic outcomes of the Money in Africa project extend beyond academe, and have an impact on cultural understanding and educational achievement within and beyond the Black community in Britain.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 645.60K | Year: 2013

Hoards of valued materials, particularly coins, are a common, and rapidly growing, class of discovery across the Roman Empire. While these are most commonly seen as having been deposited for safe keeping, other explanations for this activity are also possible. There has been little explicit discussion or research on why Roman coin hoards were buried, why hoards were not recovered in antiquity, or what they tell us when studied as a group. Six hundred hoards are known from Britain containing coins of the period AD 253-96, an unprecedented concentration, and they provide a key and under-used dataset that can shed light on a poorly known period of British archaeology and history. The British pattern of later 3rd-century hoards differs markedly from the rest of the western Roman empire, despite the political problems that affected Britain at this time being felt equally or more severely in many other European provinces. This anomaly merits detailed investigation and the results will have implications not only for interpretation of this specific hoarding phenomenon, but will contribute significantly to more general debates about hoarding behaviour in antiquity. Traditionally these hoards have been interpreted as having been buried with the intention of recovery but recent discoveries such as the Frome hoard have suggested the possibility that these hoards may have been ritual (or `votive) deposits. Ritual deposition is a common explanation for prehistoric metalwork, and many, if not all, Iron Age coin hoards. Can we show whether any of the 3rd century hoards were likely to have been ritual deposits and, if so, how many? If so, what are the implications for the use of their contents in studying monetary history or political history? We propose to ask the following research questions: 1. Why were coin hoards deposited in Roman Britain - and was this for similar reasons as other Iron Age and Roman coin hoards? 2. Why were so many coin hoards deposited (and not recovered) in 3rd-century Britain and is their date of burial the same as the date of their latest coins? 3. What do coin hoards tell us about the economic and political history of 3rd-century Britain? 4. How different or similar are 3rd-century British coin hoards to those from other periods of Roman Britain or other parts of northwestern provinces of the Roman Empire? 5. What wider lessons can be learnt about using coin hoards to understand the economic, political and religious history of the Roman Empire? The project brings together the expertise of the British Museum in the study of Roman coins and hoards and the academic strengths of the University of Leicester in Roman archaeology and their experience of investigating coin hoards in a landscape setting. The PI, Dr Roger Bland, is Keeper of Portable Antiquities & Treasure at the British Museum and has very extensive experience studying hoards; the CIs are Professors Colin Haselgrove and David Mattingly, leading experts respectively on Iron Age archaeology and coinage and on the archaeology and economy of the Roman Empire. Under their collective guidance and with input from expert colleagues, 3 RAs will study (1) the hoards from Britain and the wider Empire, (2) a landscape study of the hoard findspots and archaeological evidence for Roman Britain in the 3rd century AD; and (3) reasons for the deposition of metalwork in the Iron Age and Roman periods. The key outputs will include a monograph, at least 5 peer-reviewed articles, 2 conferences (the papers of which will be published), two exhibitions, articles for popular magazines and a web-based hoards database. The project will build on discoveries made by members of the public and reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme to provide a comprehensive study of coin hoarding in Britain in the 3rd century AD, set in a wider context, and will also address key wider questions relevant for understanding coin hoards in other periods.

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