A three-year PhD studentship under the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme (CDP)

AHRC PhD Studentship Announcement Glasgow, Scotland and Slavery: Evidence from the Collections of Glasgow Museums

The University of Glasgow’s School of Humanities, in partnership with Glasgow Museums (Glasgow Life), are please to announce a three-year PhD studentship under the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme (CDP), to begin 1 October 2015. The award covers home EU tuition fees and provides a maintenance award of at least £1,200 per month, and some research and training expenses for three years, and will benefit from staff training alongside permanent museum staff members.

Applications for the studentships are due no later than Friday 22nd May. Interviews will be held on Friday 5th June in Glasgow. (Interviews may be conducted using skype).

The Research Project

This project will explore how the little-known and little-studied history of Glasgow's and Scotland's connections with plantation slavery in the Caribbean and North American colonies are reflected in artefacts in the collections of Glasgow Museums. The CDP student will investigate the histories of objects created or acquired during the age of slavery, their provenance and uses, and the ways in which some were connected to slavery or reflective of the consumer culture enriched by slavery. Such connections may take many forms, and will not necessarily reflect implicit support for and profiting from racial slavery. Glasgow and Scotland developed a remarkably active anti-slavery movement, which sponsored such activities as ethical consumption of goods produced by free labour, and artefacts reflective of such activity, or purchased by those who campaigned against slavery are almost certainly to be found within the collections.

This thesis, and the research that informs it, will help shape future decisions about how to represent that history in displays and exhibitions. In some cases the links are readily apparent, as in a silver rum punch bowl (1716), symbolic of Glasgow merchants' celebration of the sugar trade that made them rich. In other cases the connection is less obvious, as in the young black boy, quite possibly a slave, on the left hand side of the Glassford Family Portrait (1766). But in many more cases, the historical connections between artefacts held by Glasgow Museums and enslaved Africans and the goods they produced is unknown. The partnership will allow the CDA student to acquire a range of museum research, curatorial and management skills by working directly with Glasgow Museums' Centre for Collections Research and Learning and Access teams.

Within a wider analytical framework, the key aims and objectives of the project are:

  • To enhance and strengthen research into the history of slavery in Britain and the British Atlantic World at the University of Glasgow 
  • To make an original contribution to scholarship in historical and museum studies, drawing upon the expertise and resources of an interdisciplinary supervisory team, about how the hidden history of slavery is reflected in the collections of Glasgow Museums
  • To develop an object-led research project, which addresses directly the intentions of Glasgow Museums to enable better understanding of how slavery and slave-produced goods affected the history of Glasgow, Scotland and their populations
  • To develop artefact 'origin stories' and 'back stories' in order to create an effective example of how a range of objects expressive of Glasgow's history are linked, both directly and indirectly, to the city's and country's historic relationship with New World racial slavery
  • To write up research led commentary on selected representative objects/images
  • To gain practical experience of curatorship in pursuing the above.
  • To help enable the organization to more fully engage with the 'Revisiting Collections' methodology devised by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Collections Trust 
  • To offer scope for formal knowledge transfer activities from museum collections to public audiences, through different activities enabled by the Learning and Access team
  • To enhance Glasgow Museums’ reputation as an institution willing and able to engage with socially and politically challenging issues arising from its collections

Research Questions

  • How do items held by Glasgow Museums bear a direct relationship to the history of slavery in the Americas? (Including, for example, objects showing the enslaved, such as portraits, teapots etc., and others designed to utilise slave-produced goods such as punch and sugar bowls).
  • How do items and collections held by Glasgow Museums bear an indirect relationship to the history of slavery? (How were the profits of plantation slavery spent on art and material items now in the collections?).
  • How can investigation and analysis of the histories of these items illuminate a largely forgotten aspect of the history of Glasgow and Scotland between the later seventeenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries?
  • How can this research inform on-going presentation and display of materials in Glasgow Museums, and the shape and development of focused exhibits in the future?
  • How can this research and its outcomes help inform and shape civic understanding and school education related to this part of the city and nation’s history?

The Collaboration

The collaboration encapsulates organisational efforts to achieve closer research relations between the University of Glasgow (UG) and Glasgow Museums (GM), shaped by the drafting of a Collaborative Framework Agreement in 2010 to develop a strategic partnership that maximises the organisations’ shared potential for education, research and creativity. The collaboration between UG and GM will develop further with the opening of the Kelvin Hall cultural complex in 2017, which may well provide further possibilities for display of the results of this research, and their utilisation in knowledge exchange.

The project supervisors have a history of academic contact and collaboration beginning in 2011. Lewis (GM) enlisted Newman (GU) as an academic advisor and consultant in preparing the major exhibition ‘How Glasgow Flourished, 1714-1837’ (Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, 2014). Based on this collaboration, Lewis and Newman made a successful joint application to the Royal Society of Edinburgh for a Research Workshop building from the exhibition, which is creating on-line resources for researchers and schools elaborating on how artefacts from the exhibit can show hidden histories, including that of slavery.


The Student

Applicants should hold (or expect to achieve in 2015) a Masters degree with Merit or Distinction, and an undergraduate degree with First-Class or Upper Second-Class Honours in relevant fields or subjects (including but not limited to History, Art History, Museums and Heritage Studies). Experience in museums studies, or the history or art, or material cultural analysis would be of benefit.

The studentships are governed by the terms and conditions of AHRC postgraduate studentships. Applicants must therefore have a relevant connection with the United Kingdom, usually through residence. For full details of eligibility, please see the AHRC’s Guide to Student Funding.

How To Apply

Applications should include the following materials:

  • CV
  • Covering letter describing in detail your interest in and suitability for undertaking this project 
  • An example of scholarly work up to 3000 words in length (e.g. coursework essay, or a dissertation chapter)
  • Degree transcripts (this may be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
  • 2 academic references (these may be sent directly from your referees if they would prefer)

Please send application materials to Humanities-scholarships@glasgow.ac.uk with the subject line ‘Slavery CDP Application' by Friday 22 May 2015.

Further Information

Applications for the studentships are due no later than Friday 22 May 2015
Interviews will be held on Friday 5 June 2015 in Glasgow (interviews may be conducted using skype).

First published: 13 April 2015

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