Dr Nicholls awarded a BA Rising Star Engagement Award.

Post from Dr Nicholls

I am delighted to have been awarded a British Academy ‘Rising Star’ Engagement Award (BARSEA). The BARSEA scheme is intended to allow humanities researchers at a relatively early stage of their careers to engage with the work of the Academy, and to organise events, training, and mentoring activities for colleagues in their own and other disciplines.

My application to the scheme was based on my work in digital visualisation. I have completed a large digital model of ancient Rome for use in research and teaching. I have developed that interest into an undergraduate module in which I teach undergraduates how to research and create their own digital reconstructions of our local town of Silchester. Last year this work won an award from the Guardian.

For the BARSEA scheme, I wanted to make contact with others engaged in similar work. Even within my own field of ancient history I know of several other visualisation schemes, and the recent REF – especially the impact case studies – show that this is true of other disciplines. There’s a lot to discuss for those of us working in this relatively new field – tools and techniques, aims, integration with existing research, new avenues of exploration. It would also be helpful to talk to those working in commercial digital studios, as there could be much to learn from each others’ approaches and techniques.

I know that I would find this sort of discussion helpful and interesting, and hope others would too. I proposed to the British Academy that I should use the funding offered by this scheme to find and talk to other projects, and bring them together for a colloquium, in Reading (next Easter) to discuss their work and how it helps their research.

The award scheme also supports training and mentoring events. As I have experience in teaching the software (SketchUp) that I use for a lot of my modelling, I thought it might be useful to offer a day workshop to researchers interested in exploring such techniques for themselves. This will happen in Reading next academic year, and anyone interested in participating is invited to contact me.

As well as running my own project, I look forward to working with my very distinguished fellow award-winners. They have a range of fascinating projects – law, oral traditions in African countries, energy ethics, and medieval multilingualism to name just a few – and we will be learning more about each other’s work at the Academy’s induction event in May.

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