The College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Brighton and the British Museum are pleased to announce a funded studentship for doctoral research, awarded under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.
The project is entitled Legacies of Collecting, Collaboration and Co-production: The British Museum and West Africa and will examine professional interactions between museums in Europe and West Africa since 1945. It will focus on the history of the British Museum and how today’s transnational museum practice was formed in the context of mid-twentieth-century nation building and the end of empire. The successful applicant will gain a unique opportunity to benefit from training and a placement at the British Museum, conduct research into its collections and archives, and carry out funded fieldwork in West Africa.
The studentship will be supervised by Dr Claire Wintle, Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies and Art History (Brighton), and Dr John Giblin, Head of Africa Section (British Museum). This full-time studentship, which is funded for 3.5 years (including 0.5 years of funding to support training and a placement) at standard AHRC rates, will begin on 1 October 2016.
Collaboration and co-production are often seen as hallmarks of post-1970s, postcolonial museum practice. Yet between 1945 and 1970 staff in the British Museum’s Department of Ethnography were already working closely with museums and individuals in the decolonising nations of West Africa: objects were gifted and sold by the British Museum to support developing organisations in the region; resources and expertise were exchanged during fieldwork in West Africa, and African anthropologists visited London to share knowledge and gain training.
With a focus on the British Museum, the studentship will investigate this mid-century period of UK and European museum collaboration with individuals and institutions in West Africa, exploring the collections and interpretations that were generated and the practices that were developed at this critical but understudied point in museum anthropology. It will ask:
What was the nature of the British Museum’s and other museums’ collaboration with individuals and institutions in West Africa in the 25 years surrounding the region’s independence (1945-1970)?
Developing this central research question, the student will investigate the ways in which those in West Africa influenced the collections and interpretation of the British Museum at this time (and vice versa), how collaboration as professional practice changed over this period, and the impact of nation-building in West Africa (and in the UK) on this process. Through comparison with other UK and European institutions, the project will ask if the
British Museum was unique in its collaborative activities or part of wider mid-century trends.
Building on these key historical questions, the student will also investigate: What is the legacy of this history in terms of collections care today? How can an enriched understanding of the foundations of collaboration between European museums, such as the British Museum, and West African individuals and institutions support the collaborative activities of museums in the present?
The student will have the opportunity to refine these research questions, identify relevant further archives/collections/museums in the UK and Europe, and to define the nature of ‘collaboration’ via their investigations. The studentship includes three years funding to complete the PhD, and an additional six months funding to 1) receive training in museum documentation standards and databases at the British Museum 2) undertake a two month-long placement in the British Museum’s Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, and 3) write executive summaries of the research to inform future collaborative projects in the museum sector.
The project will contribute to an emerging literature which recognises the influence of anthropologists and others from Africa on the practice of anthropology; it will shed light on an understudied period in museum history providing rich contextual material for contemporary interpretation and collections care, and, building on recent scholarly analyses of co-production in museums, it will help develop historically informed guidance for collaborative museum anthropology today.
Subject to AHRC eligibility criteria, the award will cover tuition fees and a standard AHRC grant (stipend) towards living expenses for three years. The value of the stipend for 2016/17 is yet to be confirmed. However, for the 2016/17 it is likely to be £14,296 plus £550 additional stipend payment for Collaborative Doctoral Students. This studentship also includes an additional six months funding to contribute towards living expenses for work outlined above. In addition, the student will receive further funds from the University of Brighton’s School of Humanities and the British Museum to undertake research in West Africa, and some additional support towards further research expenses. The successful applicant will be able to participate in additional training and other opportunities provided to CDP students by the National Museums, British Library and National Archives, and receive a British Museum staff pass, a workspace with computer, research library access and staff privileges.
How to apply
Please download the attached form and read the instructions on how to apply.
The completed application form and both references must be received by the deadline of 5pm Thursday 7 April 2016. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure referees submit references.