The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Post-PhD Life: On Teaching

There's nothing like teaching to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of one's own education to oneself.

This semester, I was invited to teach an introductory undergraduate course on museums and heritage to about 70 students at my old alma mater. It felt strange to step into the shoes of my former instructors and to teach students in whose seat I was in not so very long ago myself. I was very apprehensive at first: what was I supposed to say? What were the key concepts and how should I communicate them?

It took me a while to choose a good textbook. I ended up using Burcaw's classic text, which is a little outdated in its theoretical stance, but provides a solid introduction to the fundamentals of museum practice. The other candidates were either too theoretical or too US-centred to be of lasting value to those few of my students who would go on to become museum and heritage professionals. The Burcaw book also helped me outline my goals for the course: as it doesn't cover heritage at all, I was on my own for that half of the course, and so used the opportunity to invite lots of local professionals as guest lecturers, to give the students a sense of the range of heritage work and issues, as well as its presence in local public life. (This also meant I didn't have to lecture much for the first half of the semester!)

It was in planning the second half of the term that I realized how far I have come as a scholar and a professional. I decided to begin planning by listing all the things I thought were important to know about museums in point form: this ended up being way more topics than I had lectures available, so I had to cut down. Already, I started to gain confidence, as I didn't have to review any published authorities to come up with this list. Some of the topics, such as marketing, or new technologies, I felt nervous in lecturing about: I am not an expert, and I really thought that my ignorance would show. It turned out, however, that I had somehow (osmosis?) managed to absorb enough pertinent facts to compose a perfectly acceptable 75-minute lecture even on these. As for delivering lectures on my own particular areas of expertise - history of museums, display and design, collections management, curation - I had to censor myself in order to keep from going off topic and over time. My learnings, let me show you them! Plus (and those of you currently writing-up will be heartened by this) I was surprised at how useful my thesis was in composing my lectures. Time and time again I found myself dipping back into my thesis literature review sections to select concepts and references that were relevant. It felt good to know that my thesis wasn't all theoretical, but had practical value in my work.

So it turns out that I am not entirely the abstruse over-educated but under-experienced academic I thought I was. I know lots of useful stuff, and even my thesis contains information that is interesting not just to me and my supervisor and examiners, but also to undergraduates from all different backgrounds (the course doesn't have any prerequisites and is not limited to students of any particular major program, so alongside art, archaeology and history students, I also had people from kinesiology, among others!). I tell you this so that in your life-or-death struggle to finish your PhDs, you can take heart in the hope that you to, will one day feel like you know "enough".

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New PhD Opportunities

The School of Art History at the University of St Andrews is offering 6 fully-funded PhD Scholarships of £15,000 in the areas of Museum & Gallery Studies, Art History and History of Photography to begin in September 2013. The Scholarships will cover the cost of fees (at the UK/EU home rate) and provide a tax-free bursary to successful candidates.

For more information please visit our website

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2013 VSA Conference - Calls for Proposals

We are pleased to announce that the 2013 Visitor Studies Association calls for Session Proposals and Pre-Conference Workshop Proposals are now open! The deadline for submitting a proposal is December 21, 2012.

Where Innovation Meets Rigor: Shaping the Next Decade of Visitor Studies

VSA invites the informal learning community to join us in creating a conference program to help push the field of visitor studies forward by thinking about the future of our field. This year, VSA will reflect on innovation within visitor studies and the critical importance of bringing innovation and creativity to our work while balancing these efforts with rigor in research and evaluation practice.

Innovation can encompass a broad range of qualities and features in the fields of research, evaluation, and informal learning experiences – from defining indicators and reporting results to shaping policy and defining the value of cultural institutions. Innovation and creativity speak to the future and bring about new ways of knowing and understanding visitors. In contrast, rigor and best practices lead to established standards, efficiency, and tried and true ways of knowing and understanding visitors. Innovation and creativity relate to rigor in research and evaluation in both positive and negative ways. We are seeking proposals that explore different facets of innovation and rigor. What has worked before, what works now, what might work in the future, and how do we balance these questions in practice?

Please submit any questions to the Program Chairs Gayra Ostgaard and Robert Jakubowski at

Please note: The 2013 conference will be held in Milwaukee, WI July 15-19. The conference hotel is the Pfister Hotel; more information coming soon.

Monday, December 03, 2012

New Conference: InART’13

1st International Conference on Innovation
in Art Research and Technology

10-13 July 2013. Évora, Portugal

This first InART-13 will be held at the University of Évora between 10th and 13th of July 2013. This event intends to bring together specialists working in the field of Conservation Science and Applied Researches and Technologies for Conservation of Cultural Heritage from all around the world.
As an interdisciplinary platform of dialogue and dissemination of scientific results, this conference will also welcome professionals, academic staff, early stage researchers and students from art history, museology, archaeology, architectural conservation and practical conservation field. Special attention will be given to innovative techniques, tools and products from Surface/Nano-Science and Environmental areas and to novel dissemination/Outreach strategies and tools for Scientific Conservation.
All interested participants may submit proposals for oral communications or posters.
The proposals should be in the form of a written abstract, in English (one page). These
should be sent in doc or docx format, until 15th of February 2013, to:
according to the template available on the website:
Accepted abstracts of papers and posters will be published in a Book of Abstracts, to be
delivered during the conference and to be made available online after the conference.
Accepted oral presentations will be published in two Special Issues of the International
Journal of Conservation Science and Conservar Pátrimonio, according specific instructions to be found on the website of both journals.
Further details on the conference venue, registration fees and accommodation may be found at the conference´s home page: