Research Fellow, Pitt Rivers Museum, South Parks Road, Oxford
The Museum is seeking to appoint a Research Fellow as part of our strategic vision to be a world-leading centre for the cross-disciplinary study of visual and material culture. The Research Fellow will join an active and engaged group of leading researchers within the Museum and contribute to it with their own cutting-edge work. The Fellow will carry out and publish independent research within the general fields of visual, material and museum anthropology and related themes that interconnect with the Museum’s collections and histories. The post holder will also help coordinate a new initiative to expand University teaching with the Museum’s collections. The Fellow will be fully supported in accessing collections for research purposes and in the preparation of research applications and also engage with the Museum’s Public Engagement with Research activities.
Research Associate, Labelling Matters, Pitt Rivers Museum
The Pitt Rivers Museum is looking for a Research Assistant to manage a project that aims to identify and find ways to redress a range of ethical issues in the current displays.
Are you a critical thinker ready to help tackle a complex problem around historical labelling and language-use in the much-loved and criticised Pitt Rivers Museum? The “Labelling Matters” project builds on inclusivity focused work being developed at the PRM and other ethnographic museums with the aim to dissect and dismantle some of the complex contested words, stereotypes and concepts that are present not only in museums but in society at large. What ways might we find to use the Pitt Rivers Museum Victorian age space, its historic labels and the contested nature of the collection to interrogate the Museum and related disciplines present and pasts?
The Museum is seeking to appoint a Research Associate as part of our strategic vision to be a world-leading centre for the cross-disciplinary study of visual and material culture. The Research Associate will coordinate and carry out a review of the visual and textual language in the Museum’s main galleries and a selection of web-based microsites.
This is a fixed-term post for 12 months and the postholder will work collaboratively with colleagues across the different sections of the Museum with regards to exhibition design and new interpretation guidelines as well as the other responsibilities outlined in the job description.
Counter-Memories: Photographs of Empire in Country House Collections
Almost all National Trust country house properties have historic photographic collections. These photographs are usually associated with family members who lived at the houses. Among them are many images of the British Empire. Some albums relate to personal, family or business travel, while others derive from military or administrative service overseas. These colonial images range from the touristic to the anthropological, from leisure to expedition, and from exoticism to the domestic.
This project offers a unique opportunity to undertake a ‘visual archaeology’ of these virtually unstudied photographic collections. The aim of the research is to explore the relationships between empire, knowledge and regimes of photographic visuality in post-colonial perspective, through studies of historic photographs as zones of contact or conflict in the past and as ongoing legacies and aftershocks of colonialism in the present. Specific material that could be form the focus of the research ranges from well documented collections at Polesden Lacey in Surrey or Packwood House in Warwickshire to many other little-understood collections at other properties. The sheer richness and unstudied nature of the material means that most regions in which 19th- and 20th-century British imperialism operated could form the geographical focus of the research – from the Caribbean to Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This geographical focus will be agreed between the supervisors and the students before the research begins.
The project offers a unique opportunity for the geo-political dimensions of these neglected and provincial colonial archives to be explored, for example through the creation of new connections with places and descendant communities beyond the country house. Research themes developed by the research student around this material may include questions of ‘race’, class, gender, genre and representation, objectification and orientalism, visibility and silence, and knowledge and memory, ranging from what Marie-Louise Pratt called the ‘transculturation’ of ‘imperial eyes’ to the ongoing status of the colonial gaze of these visual pasts in contemporary, postcolonial Britain. Though the embedding of the studentship in the ongoing operation of National Trust properties, the ‘Counter-Memories’ project will foreground for the student the practical challenges of exploring unseen pasts through visual culture.
Applicants will normally have an academic background in an Arts, Humanities or Social Science discipline such as Archaeology, Anthropology, Art History, Museum Studies, or History.
The Photological Past: contemporary archaeological photography as visual culture
Co-supervised by Dan Hicks (Professor of Contemporary Archaeology, Oxford) and Dr Sadie Watson (Project Officer, MOLA), the research will re-assess the status of the photographic image in the practice of archaeological fieldwork and documentation in the digital age. Studying the tens of thousands of photographs taken and archived by MOLA in the course of more than 40 years of professional practice on development projects from the City of London to national infrastructure projects such as High Speed 2, the research will apply approaches from the study of photography in the History of Art and Visual Anthropology to the study of historic archaeological photography and the reflexive study of archaeological fieldwork and the creation of archaeological knowledge of the human past. The subjects of photographs will range from excavations of prehistoric, Roman, medieval or modern sites to standing buildings, artefacts, or fieldwork in process.
The study of historical and changing contemporary practices, genres and norms of archaeological photography offers a unique opportunity to study the place of visual culture in the production of knowledge of the past. The research will address the idea of “photological knowledge” in relation to questions of time, archive, and objectivity – moving beyond longstanding literatures on the social construction of heritage in order to look at the visual enactment of the human past through the photography of archaeological deposits – soils, scales, artefacts, and so on.
The collaborative nature of the project will facilitate research that is genuinely embedded within field projects across the UK, from London’s Square Mile to rural landscapes. This will make possible a unique extended case study for observing and reflecting on photography as a practice in the field, and its afterlives both in the museum archive and both formally and informally across social media. Particular themes may include the different modes of ‘working shots’, technical field photography as ‘preservation by record’, and reportage or journalistic photography; tensions between fieldworkers’ photos and ‘professional’ photography; the changing presence of the human subject in the frame of archaeological photographs; new drone technologies creating new forms of aerial photography; and archaeological approaches to the sheer scale of the digital record, and its preservation. The researcher will have full access to the unique photographic archive of MOLA, as well as the ongoing production of photographic images in fieldwork through the organisation’s contemporary practice, and may also choose to study the use of archaeological imagery in museum displays and publications.
Writing the Ethnological Museum
This collaborative project uses the historic inscription practices of the Pitt Rivers Museum as a lens through which to study the history and ongoing legacies of the knowledge made through colonialism in the context of the ethnographic museum. Primary material includes all writing practices involved in the functioning of the anthropological museum as an institution from 1884 to the present day: from vocabularies of people and thing to museum labels as a genre, a narratology of annual reports and accession books, a close reading of the card index and database, and the study of the diversity of practices of writing on objects. The hands of particular curators and collectors and the re-writing of museum displays will be put into dialogue with a broader set of questions about the relationships between objectification through material culture and representation through text.
In a cross-disciplinary perspective that brings literary analysis into dialogue with linguistic anthropology through material culture, the research will involve a literary study of language, writing and speech acts as imperial technologies of objectification in the academy in the past, and a consideration of the scope for rereading and revision today.
Case studies will be drawn from across the geographical, temporal and disciplinary scope of the Pitt Rivers, from Asia and Africa to the Americas and Oceania, with regional or thematic focuses developing from the student’s own interests.
The research will be conducted at the intersection between a series of present themes in postcolonial literary and museum studies, including thinking about ‘voice’; the politics of representation/self-representation; technologies of writing; the making and unmaking of cultural, racial and gendered identities; archival silences and archival traces; reparative histories; the construction of narratives of self and other; the politics of the ‘contact zone’ and encounter and the question of ‘culture wars’; aesthetics and politics; the constitution and/or reframing of the archive; the politics of the particular and the universal; authority and authorship; narrative strategies and ‘narrativity’; (re)reading against the grain; and resistance, dialogics and rewriting.