Face to Face: Stories from the Asylum

 

Blog written by PhD student Morag Allan Campbell

 

Morag and exhibition

Morag Allan Campbell, photo reproduced by permission of DC Thomson & Co

The Face to Face: Stories from the Asylum exhibition, currently on display in the Tower Foyer Gallery, University of Dundee, explores the lives of a group of patients admitted to Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum at the turn of the twentieth century.  It has been researched and curated by St Andrews student Morag Allan Campbell, who is in the third year of her PhD in Modern History.  In this blog post, Morag outlines the origins of Face to Face, and her experience of preparing an exhibition for public display.

My research is pretty much based on lunatic asylum records, and I’ve spent a long time reading case notes from the early to mid-nineteenth century, patient histories laid out in page after page of scratchy, florid handwriting.  Reading through those files, I can only guess at what those patients might have looked like, piecing together an idea from physicians’ explanations of their mental disorder. When I turned to notes from later in the century, I began to find small faded photographs stuck into many of the patients’ notes, and I felt as if I had suddenly come face to face with my subjects. I wanted to know more about the lives behind those faces, and to share some of their stories.  And an exhibition seemed to be the best way to do that.

Curating the Face to Face exhibition has had the added benefit of allowing me to research the stories of patients not directly connected with my own research topic, which focusses on women suffering from postnatal mental illness, and has thoroughly immersed me in the experience of putting material together for public display.  I started with the patient histories, selecting and researching a number of cases to gather a range of diagnoses and backgrounds.  I then edited their stories into short texts, and paired them with information on various diagnoses supplied by my supervisor, Prof Rab Houston, who is an expert on the history of psychiatry – many of the diagnoses would be unfamiliar to modern ears, or they had a different meaning from how we use them today.

The next step was to design and layout all the boards – I tried to create a good balance of text and visual material, to attract and engage the reader without overloading them with too much information.  The archivists at Dundee University supplied me with some images to add local context to the patients’ stories, though I did use images from other sources.  In one case, an image from one external source was going to be too costly, and so I ended up grabbing my camera and heading off to take a picture myself – which I used, slightly sepia tinted to match the tone of the other images.

It was nerve-wracking when the time came to send the designs off to the printers, as I was dreading that mistakes might jump out at me when I unwrapped the finished product.  I am indebted to Caroline Brown, Dundee University Archivist, and Matthew Jarron, Curator of Museum Services at the University of Dundee, for their help and advice while I was putting together the exhibition, and not least for their invaluable assistance in proofreading the boards!  Caroline, Jan, Sharon and the rest of the team at the archives offered me plenty of support, and also selected some actual archive material and records for display as part of the exhibition.

Dundee Press Coverage 2.JPGWhen the time came for Matthew and me to put up the boards in the Tower Foyer Gallery, people were already showing an interest and we had a small crowd reading the boards before they had even been fully fixed to the wall.  It has been really amazing to see the interest in the exhibition. Since the launch, I have been working in the archives regularly which, as the department is located in the basement of the Tower Building, has taken me past the exhibition almost every day.  There has scarcely been a time when I have gone past and not found someone intently reading the exhibition boards, and I have also been able to chat with many of the visitors. What has really struck me is how actively people have engaged with the material – each viewer brings their own history and their own views to the experience, and I feel that the exhibition at Dundee has been really successful in opening up a dialogue on the subject of mental health issues past and present.

Putting the exhibition together was not without its difficulties, and it has been many months in the making. We also had ethical and data protection issues to consider before I could even start doing any research. The excitement of actually seeing the boards in place, not to mention the positive feedback which very quickly started to roll in, has more than made up for all the hours spent working away in the archives researching patient histories, and all those further hours spent carefully editing copy and making minute but crucial adjustments to display boards.

Edith.jpgThe exhibition is part of a St Andrews project, ‘Promoting Mental Health through the Lessons of History’ led by Rab Houston, and is a collaboration with University of Dundee Archive Services.   When the exhibition is finished at Dundee, Rab will take over the reins and has plans to tour the exhibition.  He has already arranged for a smaller version to be displayed in two Scottish prisons in association with Fife College and the Scottish Prison Service Learning and Skills initiative.  The university has been working in partnership with Fife College as part of the ground-breaking public engagement programme Cell Block Science.

If you would like to host the exhibition, or know of someone else who would, Rab would be happy to hear from you!  Further information is available on the project website. The main exhibition is on display at the University of Dundee until June 9, and is open Monday – Friday 09:30 – 19:00 and on Saturdays from 13:00 – 17:00.

 

 

 

 

 

March Round Up

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Photo attrib. Sarah, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

News

Congratulations to Dr John Condren, who has received a Rome Award from the British School at Rome, to conduct research for an article on diplomatic ceremonial at the papal court in the late 17th century

Congratulations to Professor Aileen Fyfe, Professor Knud Haakonssen, Professor Colin Kidd and Professor Richard Whatmore. They have received a Leverhulme Trust Large Grant for their project After Enlightenment: Intellectual Life in Scotland, 1790-1843

Staff Activity

On March 19, the Editing Early Modern Texts and Sources: Problems and Possibilities conference took place

Professor Guy Rowlands presented the papers ‘The Last Argument of the King? Arms, Artillery and Absolutism under Louis XIV’to the Medieval and Renaissance Group, and ‘The Sinews of War, the Sun King, and the Financial Burdens and Perils of Being a Superpower’ at the history department of the College of William and Mary

On March 27th, Dr Gillian Mitchell delivered a paper entitled ‘Popular Music and Family Life, 1955-1975: Questioning Notions of Generation Gap’ at the ‘Recording Leisure Lives’ conference at the University of Bolton

On March 27th, Professor Richard Whatmore gave a talk entitled ‘Rights after the Revolutions’ for the Johns Hopkins Political and Moral Thought Seminar series

Publications

Aileen Fyfe and Camilla Mørk Røstvik, ‘How female fellows fared at the Royal Society,’ Nature (6 March 2018)

Tomasz Kamusella and Fenix Ndhlovu, ‘Kamusella and Ndhlovu on Linguistic Imperialism,’ Social Science Matters (March 2018)

Mara van der Lugt, ‘The left hand of the Englightenment: truth, error, and integrity in Bayle and Kant,’ History of European Ideas (26 Feb 2018)

Richard Whatmore, Béla Kapossy, Isaac Nakhimovsky and Sophus Reinert (eds.),  Markets, Morals and Politics. Jealousy of Trade and the History of Political Thought (Harvard University Press, 2018)

Conference ‘Dress and Décor: Domestic Textiles and Personal Adornment in Scotland up to 1700’

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From left to right: Professor Roger Mason, Peryn Westerhof Nyman and Dr Morvern French, photo attrib. Chelsea Reutcke

Blog written by Dr Morvern French

On 23 and 24 March 2018 the Institute of Scottish Historical Research held a conference on Dress and Décor: Domestic Textiles and Personal Adornment in Scotland up to 1700. With a diverse range of speakers and topics, the event focussed on clothing, accessories, jewellery, tapestry, and embroidery from the medieval to early modern period in Scotland.

Dr Sally Rush opened with a study of the chafferon at the court of James V. A gold wire headdress worn by men and women, it represented the Renaissance ideals of beauty and majesty, and can be traced through written accounts, portraiture, and sculpture. This was complemented by a panel on ‘Royal Ceremony and Display in the Sixteenth Century’. Dr Lucy Dean outlined the use of dress at the marriages of James IV, James V, and James VI, arguing for its international significance. Rosalind Mearns examined a portrait of James V and Mary of Guise, comparing the fashion and accessories depicted with those in a contemporary portrait of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon. Peryn Westerhof Nyman considered the wearing of dule – mourning cloth – by members of the Scottish court on the deaths of Madeleine of Valois, Margaret Tudor, and James V.

Helen Wyld gave an in-depth paper on the reconstruction of James V’s tapestry collection, none of which is known to survive. Documentary and visual evidence, and the identification of contemporary pieces, show that James’s taste was at the cutting edge of European design and cultural sophistication.

In the Collections Session Claire Robinson presented a pair of gauntlet gloves held by the Museum of the University of St Andrews. These were given by Charles I to Sir Henry Wardlaw, who also owned the Wardlaw Bible presented by Dr Briony Harding of Special Collections, University of St Andrews. This and a dos-à-dos devotional text on display are covered with embroidered bindings bearing heraldic and floral designs.

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Photo attrib. Chelsea Reutcke

Afterwards, we heard a panel on ‘The Production and Circulation of Textiles’. Nora Epstein considered how the adoption of Protestantism in Scotland caused religious imagery to move from the church to the home, appearing in embroidery. Professor Christopher Smout then discussed the varied types of fabric produced in seventeenth century Scotland, and the spinners, weavers, tailors, and merchants involved in its manufacture and distribution within Scotland and abroad.

Caroline Paterson then opened a dialogue on Viking graves in Scotland with a consideration of brooches, belt fittings, beads, and other accessories. The dating, metal content, and design provide a picture of cultural complexity in Viking era Scotland, with material influences from Scandinavia. Following this paper, we heard Dr Susan Freeman’s study of the textile remains found in these graves, with a focus on the skill and time investment needed to produce these items.

The next morning, Dr Mark Hall discussed the spiritual and social values attached to dress accessories in and around medieval Perth. These included coins, pilgrimage tokens, reliquary pendants, horse mounts, and seal matrices, which held religious and/or apotropaic properties. Such objects were sometimes recycled or reshaped to change in use and meaning, beyond the strictly aesthetic.

The final panel on ‘Dress, Accessories, and Jewellery: Their Role in Cultural Identity’ was opened by Lyndsay McGill. She reconsidered the accepted definition of fede rings as relating to love and marriage, when they may have also had religious or apotropaic properties. Rhona Ramsay followed with a look at ‘naken’ or itinerant metalworkers in Argyll, showing that such craftspeople were capable of producing sophisticated silver pieces for elite clients. Finally Dr David Caldwell re-examined the traditional Scottish dress of plaid, which had antecedents in the classical world but was increasingly associated with the Highlands of Scotland.

At the concluding roundtable discussion ideas for future research and collaboration were put forward. These included a publication of the conference proceedings and the holding of further conferences. In the meantime we have created an online network for anyone interested in the topic of dress and décor in Scotland. To access this please email morvern.french@hes.scot or pwn2@st-andrews.ac.uk.

 

St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies Postgraduate Reading Weekend

Blog written by Dr Sarah Greer

sarah greerphoto.pngOn a chilly Saturday morning in February, an assortment of MLitt and PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and staff arrived at Dalgairn House in Cupar for the 2018 SAIMS Postgraduate Reading Weekend. We received a very warm welcome to Dalgairn House by our hosts Hugh and Hilary Kennedy, along with a very appreciated cup of tea or coffee to warm up, before cracking on with the sessions. Over Saturday and Sunday, the postgraduate students and postdocs presented brief outlines of the current questions they’re tackling in their research projects, each followed by questions and discussion.

Our first session began with Ingrid Ivarsen speaking about her research into the transmission of law in Anglo-Saxon England and the interplay between Latin and Old English language in lawcodes. Following her, one of our taught MLitt students, Callum Jamieson, discussed his work on the invention of stories about papal legates in 12thC English chronicles and the use of these stories to comment on the disputes between the English church and king and the pope in this period. Sarah Greer then introduced her postdoctoral project on Carolingian and Merovingian burial sites in tenth- and eleventh-century Germany and France and how these dynasties were remembered – or forgotten – in the post-Carolingian world.

After quite a lengthy discussion and a caffeine break, we pushed on with the next session. Hailey Ogle spoke on her work on the Chansons de Geste in the High Middle Ages, and how the emotional and behavioural topoi of these very secular pieces of literature would be interpreted by monastic audiences. Guy Fassler then introduced his research on lordship in public spaces in Italian cities, and the release of tension through violent revolts that could still considered to be within the boundaries of acceptable political behaviour.

Lunch was accompanied by a chance to stretch our legs and explore the gardens around Dalgairn House in the sunshine. In the afternoon, we returned with Maria Merino Jaso outlining how she came to work on the exchanges of poetic riddles in Charlemagne’s court, and the problems of interpreting chains of texts where not all of the texts survive. Holger Kaasik then discussed his research on ideas of time in medieval calendars, and how and why various memories of different ways of calculating and measuring time became embedded in calendars over the Middle Ages. Eleonora Rava spoke on her postdoctoral project on female religious recluses and the fascinating case of a recluse who fled her enclosure and whose testimony was then presented as a character witness against a male cleric. Sophia Silverman, one of our MLitt students, introduced her dissertation on Eleanor of Aquitaine and Constance of Brittany and the ways in which female authority and rule were constructed in succession disputes. Finally, Mark Thakkar rounded the day off with a presentation of the problems he has faced in creating a new Latin edition of John Wycliffe’s De Logica.

After a full day of presentations, questions and stimulating discussion, we broke off for a much needed rest before our hosts provided us with an excellent – and very convivial – dinner. Everyone returned the following morning for the last few sessions of papers. Dana Weaver introduced her doctoral project, which uses post-colonial theory as a way to look at the incorporation of Anglo-Saxon imagery in Norman art in northern England. Gert-Jan van de Voorde then discussed his involvement in a collaborative project on studying lordship in late medieval Europe and the possibilities and problems posed in creating a quantitative database of material.

Our next session was slightly different: Eilidh Harris from CAPOD, who completed her doctorate in Mediaeval History at St Andrews, joined us to discuss her own experiences as a PhD student. She offered some practical advice and perspective on being a postgraduate student, which sparked a lively discussion about work practices and reflections from students and staff on their approaches to research.

Our final presentation was from our very generous host, Hugh Kennedy, who gave a summary of his work on the formation of the early Islamic empire, their use of taxation and their creation of a society in which intellectual culture was able to flourish. It was an ideal way to finish up our weekend, and after lunch and another wander around the grounds of Dalgairn House, we all made our way back home. The various presentations from students and staff made clear the diversity in approaches to studying the Middle Ages within SAIMS. The weekend offered a chance for us all to become more familiar with each other’s work and interests, building on the close-knit sense of community and collegiality that defines Mediaeval Studies in St Andrews.

February Round Up

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Photo attrib. Peryn Westerhof Nyman, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

News

Congratulations to Dr Kate Ferris for receiving a European Research Council
grant for her project on dictatorship and everyday life in Mediterranean Europe
(1922-1975)

Staff Activity

In early February, Dr Akhila Yechury gave a paper titled ‘Rethinking Imperial
Margins: French Borderlands in India, c.1815-1947’ at the international conference ‘Between Empires: The Making and Unmaking of Borers, 19th-20th Centuries‘ held at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

On 5 February, Dr Konrad M. Lawson gave a talk on the 1937 German-Japanese co-produced film The New Earth at the Institute for Global Cinema and Creative Cultures workshop Setsuko Hara @ St Andrews

On 7 February, Dr Gillian Mitchell participated in the Music Public Talks series at the Byre Theatre. She presented a paper entitled ‘British Pop Stars and Pantomime from the 1950s to the 1970s

Dr Yechury also participated in a British Academy sponsored international public engagement event at the University of York on 9-10 February called ‘Revising the Geography of Modern World History: New Research in Modern Trans-Regional History

On February 15, Dr Neil McGuigan presented his paper ‘Máel Coluim III and the Norman Conquest’ at the ISHR seminar

Professor Steve Murdoch gave the paper ‘Britain and the Thirty Years’ War: The
Evolution of a Field of Study’ at the Modern History seminar.

New Publications

Jordan Girardin, ‘How the first Winter Games harnessed the publicity power of
the OlympicsThe Conversation (15 Feb 2018)

Carole Hillenbrand and Robert Hillenbrand, ‘Ancient Iranian Kings in the World
History of Rashid Al-Din’, Iran: Journal of British Institute of Persian Studies (Feb
2018)

James Palmer, ‘The adoption of the Dionysian Easter in the Frankish kingdoms
(c. 670-800)’ Peritia: Journal of the Medieval Academy of Ireland, 28 (2017): 135-54.

Tomasz Kamusella, ‘Russian: Between Re-Ethnicisation and Pluricentrism’, New
Eastern Europe (Feb 2018)

Guy Rowlands, ‘Keep Right on to the End of the Road: the Stamina of the French
Army in the War of Spanish Succession’ in Michael Schaich and Matthias Pohlig
(eds), The War of the Spanish Succession. New Perspectives (Oxford University
Press, 2018)

The Undergraduate History Conference

Blog written by Sophie Rees

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Ruth McKechnie, winner of the Dean’s Prize

On Saturday 10 February, the University History Society hosted its fifth annual (and most-well attended to date) Undergraduate History Conference, held in the Medieval Old Class Library. The Conference is one of the Society’s flagship events, and one that we as a committee are immensely proud of. The first of its kind in the UK, the conference aims to enable undergraduate historians to engage independently and critically with historical topics that interest them. Year upon year, it provides a challenging but supportive environment in which to explore those interests, test ideas and develop professional and academic skills. It does not constrain students to a mark scheme, or award them points from 1-20. Instead, the conference nurtures independent academic thought, integral for the development of skills vital for dissertations and beyond.

This year’s theme, History and Memory, was well received by applicants and the wider community, and nurtured this sense of personal engagement. The tension between scholarly accounts of the past and collective memory in shaping a personal, political and national historical consciousness has often been perceived as obscuring ‘the facts’ from view. However, it is from the struggle between personal recollections and the official narrative that the patchwork of history slowly begins to be stitched together. Memory as a historical method can appear both useful and useless. It gives flavour to bland official narratives yet is hampered by its brevity and fractures. Yet, the comprehension of memory as a valuable historiographical tool is the key to ensuring that history is never forgotten.

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Attendees at the Undergraduate History Conference Dinner

The day started with a fascinating key note speech by Professor DeGroot, who gave an address entitled ‘The Burden of Memory and the Need to Forget’. Ranging from personal recollections to a national perception of Blackadder, DeGroot’s address neatly interlinked private and public understandings of memory, before contemplating on the triviality of both what we remember and what we choose to forget. This was followed by our five undergraduate speakers, who spoke on topics as varied as Stolpersteine to Polynesian sexuality. There was a great sense of audience engagement and a reciprocity of ideas, as spectator and speaker alike were drawn into interesting debate. This was accompanied by copious amounts of biscuits and cups of university branded tea (a particular favourite among students and staff alike), as we all mulled over the curious construction of historical memory. After the final speech, the committee adjourned to decide which participant would be voted best speaker, whilst Professor Colin Kidd led an open discussion on the central themes with students in the Undercroft.

This year’s recipient of the £100 Deans’ Prize is Ruth McKechnie, for her fascinating discussion of sectarian tension in ‘The Glasgow Conundrum: A discussion of how socio-cultural prejudices affect the perception of history’. We are so grateful to everyone who attended the event, with particular thanks to our five fabulous speakers: Ruth, Victoria, Philip, Zoe and Hayley. The History Society looks forward to our next undergraduate conference, where we hope to relocate to a larger venue and host even more insightful speakers.

Workshop ‘Editors and the Editing of Scientific Periodicals, 1760-1910’

Blog written by Anna Gielas

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Photo attrib Aimee Rivers, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Today’s scholars and scientists have a crucial instrument in common: the learned journal. Despite its ubiquity in academia as well as our familiarity with it, scholars still know relatively little about the historical development of the learned periodical. A recent workshop at the School of History, organised by PhD student Anna Gielas and Professor Aileen Fyfe, shed light on the founders and conductors of scientific journals as well as their editorial strategies and tactics.

The two-day workshop offered an opportunity to PhD students, early career scholars, and well-established academics to present their work. The event attracted attendants from different parts of Europe, including Germany, Scandinavia and Italy. As the first of its kind, the workshop brought British historians to the table with peers working on the same questions, but with the focus on their own native countries. This contrast guaranteed many insights and even some surprises. For instance, the British scholars were astonished to learn how philosophical editorship could spur the careers of German university professors in the second half of the eighteenth century, because English philosophical periodicals began as commercial endeavours with no links to academic institutions whatsoever.

The papers featured individual case studies as well as general trends and changes in editing throughout roughly a century and a half. In addition, the workshop fostered discussions about the many ways in which editors used their periodicals to reach various audiences and ultimately advance and establish new disciplines. Moreover, the speakers highlighted vastly different editorial tactics. One extreme was a conspicuously open, inclusive approach towards submission (regardless of their quality) because editors had to fill a fixed number of journal pages each month or even each week. The opposite would be editors with highly selective approaches and strong forms of gatekeeping, who defined and perpetuated ideas of what counted as science and which authors as scientists. The speakers showed that strong gatekeeping, as well as open and inclusive editorial approaches to scientific observations, have co-existed throughout the history of the scientific journal, and both approaches have shaped scientific communities.

The individual case studies of British, German and Swedish journals also brought to light a remarkable variety of editorial set-ups: from editorship as a task undertaken by a group of peers, to editors working alone. Month after month, sole editors managed a striking workload such as maintaining international correspondence, translating foreign journal articles, and authoring their own texts. The motives of the individual editors were as eclectic as their approaches. Some of them acted out of idealistic reasons, such as wishing to change and improve existing philosophical methodologies, a motive especially prevalent during the Enlightenment. Other editors became involved with philosophical journals in order to counter their geographical isolation, while a small group of people was only in it for the money.

Every panel led to lively discussions, and the workshop was accompanied by a small exhibition of historical scientific journals from the library’s Special Collections. The stimulating two-day event was made possible by funding from the School of History, and the organizers wish to thank Gabriel Sewell (Special Collections), Lorna Harris, and Dorothy Christie (School of History) for their tremendous help.