Heritage & Creativity

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Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Professor of Archaeology and Research Dean at the University of Reading, will present the prestigious Rhind Lectures 2017, at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, from 19-21 May. The Rhinds are the biggest archaeology lecture series in the world, comprising six lectures given over one weekend.

Professor Roberta Gilchrist at Glastonbury Abbey, the subject of one of her Rhind Lectures

The free annual lectures have been hosted by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland since 1874 to commemorate Alexander Henry Rhind, whose money bequeathed to the society first allowed them to take place, making the Rhinds the oldest and most renowned series of archaeology lectures internationally.

Professor Gilchrist has chosen the theme ‘Sacred Heritage: Archaeology, Identity and Medieval Beliefs’.  The six lectures will explore the value of sacred heritage today and in the past, examining the political and ideological use of monastic archaeology from the 12th century to the modern day.

The lectures outline a new research agenda for the archaeological study of medieval monasticism, focusing on critical approaches to heritage, the study of identity, healing, magic and memory.  They feature a strong emphasis on the archaeology of medieval Scotland, to coincide with the Scottish Government’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

In the past year, Professor Gilchrist has also given prestigious named lectures in Sweden, Canada and the USA and was Current Archaeology’s Archaeologist of the Year 2016, based on a vote by members of the public.

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Are you an Open Researcher? Do you support or promote Open Research? Did the conference convert you? If you’ve got an Open Research story to tell and would like to write a post for our blog, please drop me a line. We would love to hear your stories.

On 30th March we hosted the conference Open in Practice: Inspirations, Strategies and Methods for Open Research here at the University of Reading. Our aim was to stimulate conversation about Open Research, to showcase the benefits of an Open Research approach, and to enthuse researchers to adopt open methods in their own research practice.

The conference featured a number of guest speakers, including academics, publishers and data specialists, who came to talk about their experience of Open Research and what it means in practice. The audience included a broad representation of University researchers and research students, members of the University’s research support services, and academics from beyond Reading. Altogether 90 people, over two-thirds of them research-active, attended the conference, and took part in a day of stimulating discussions.

Slides from speakers’ presentations and a record of the concluding panel discussion can be found here, and you can relive all the drama of the day at our Storify timeline. In short video clips Marcus Munafo and Simon Tanner summarise the key messages of their plenary talks, and several of our delegates tell us about their Open Resolutions.

Why a conference on Open Research?

This is the first time the University has organised an event of this nature. Why did we do it? For two reasons.

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By Prof Jane Setter, Professor of Phonetics

Apologies for the huge understatement, but the English language has changed rather a lot since 1917.

As we approach English Language Day on 23rd April, I thought it would be a nice idea to write a short blog post about the English Pronouncing Dictionary (EPD), which I co-edit with Peter Roach (principal editor) and John Esling (American English, from the 18th edition). This is especially salient as it is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, being first published in 1917. We marked this at a special Pre-Conference Event of the IATEFL Pronunciation Special Interest Group and a Cambridge University Press event at the 2017 IATEFL Conference in Glasgow.

The EPD was created by British phonetician Daniel Jones, who was head of the Department of Phonetics at University College London. Jones is credited with coining the term ‘phoneme’ in 1917, too, so it was a bit of a special year all round for the subject area.

Jones had collaborated on a dictionary project prior to the EPD but, rather than listing headwords orthographically in alphabetical order, that version had listed the headwords in phonemic script first, with the spelling form following. It was not a best-seller.

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Dinosaurs, chickens and the Russian revolution were among the topics that won University of Reading academics prizes for their research last week.

The prize winners with Prof Steve Mithen, Lord Waldegrave, and Sir David Bell

The five academics, one from each research theme, were honoured with a Research Output Prize for Early Career Researchers at University Court, the showcase annual event for the University community, on 20 March.

Professor Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice Chancellor, said: “Congratulations to all five winners. They were selected by peer-review from a strong field of outputs by our Early Career Researchers in each of our five research themes.

“Whether having produced single or multi-authored works, the success of these award winners represents not only their own outstanding achievement , but the support and hard work of many more people at the University and further afield.”

The winners from each theme were:

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University of Reading coat of arms

Researchers at the University of Reading secured more than £3.3 million in research grants and awards in January.

A total of 25 research projects were confirmed in the first month of 2017, with a total value of £3,329,759 – an average of more than £130,000 per project.

Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for research, said: “Another strong month for research grants shows that funders share our belief that Reading researchers are among the best in the world.

“Congratulations to everyone who is beginning work on new research projects. I look forward to hearing more about their work, and seeing how their research changes people’s lives for the better.”

Among those winning funding in January were…

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by Dr Jacqui Turner, Department of History, University of Reading

This week was International Women’s Day and women were everywhere.

We were in the media, online, on TV, and crowded around both front benches in the House of Commons as, in the Budget, the Chancellor announced a further £5 million for projects to celebrate the centenary of the partial franchise in 1918, which first gave women a vote:

‘It is important that we not only celebrate next year’s Centenary but also that we educate young people about its significance. It was the decisive step in the political emancipation of women in this country and this money will go to projects to mark its significance and remind us all just how important it was.’ –Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond MP

Yes, it was, and yes, it is. My initial reaction, of course, is that this should be done in schools every year and beyond a few weeks on the GCSE History curriculum.

Maybe we do need that £5 million from Mr Hammond, which was  allocated alongside £20 million to tackle domestic violence and abuse and £5 million for ‘returnships’ to support people returning to work after long breaks.

The positioning of women around the front benches on significant days or when key legislation is being announced is a long-standing tradition –very few ever find themselves there by seniority, some maybe, but they are often window dressing.

And why do they need to be there at all?  Are we harking back to the days of our first female MP, Nancy Astor, who would ‘disrupt proceedings’ with claims that she knew best on issues relating to women because she was a woman?  She may have done, but it is the very old feminist debate – equal rights versus inherent suitability based on gender difference (whilst acknowledging that the gender debate is much wider today). Read the rest of this entry »

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By Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

Former BBC weather forecaster Bill Giles’ criticism of weather forecasts raises questions about how weather is communicated generally.

Mr Giles has hit out at forecasters for regularly warning the public about the potential consequences of imminent severe weather, arguing they are ‘behaving like nannies’ and could cause the public to become ‘immune’ to the advice.

Rain in Reading – watch out for that puddle!

He added the practice of naming storms had become too frequent, and that forecasters should only advise people about potential dangers for ‘exceptionally severe weather’, which occurs once every few years.

But how much weather information is the right amount for the public? How much do they understand? Could an appreciation of the uncertainty of forecasts actually improve our faith in them?

Research at the University of Reading has shown that not only is the average person able to process more complex weather forecast information, they are likely to make better decisions as a result of the additional information.

Scientists at Reading have therefore begun looking at whether the way weather predictions are presented to the general public can be improved.

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The Romanovs – including Tsar Nicholas II, seated centre

By Dr Andy Willimott, Lecturer in Modern Russian History, University of Reading

International Women’s Day 2017 sees a plethora of excellent and worthwhile events, highlighting many issues still facing women today.

Some are small, others gain greater attention. But will any have as big an impact as one women’s protest that took place exactly 100 years ago?

March 8 marks the anniversary of a key event of the February Revolution in Russia in 1917 – and women were at its heart.

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Two Reading archaeologists have edited a new book compiling dozens of influential research papers on European medieval archaeology.

Medieval Archaeology, edited by Professor Roberta Gilchrist (Research Dean for Heritage & Creativity) and Dr Gemma Watson from the Department of Archaeology, is a new publication in Routledge’s Critical Concepts in Archaeology series.

The four-volume, 1,930-page publication reprints 77 influential papers carefully selected to highlight the key issues and debates in the development and contemporary practice of later medieval archaeology in Europe (c. 1000–1550 AD).

The four volumes are designed thematically: ‘Defining Medieval Archaeology’, ‘the Medieval Landscape’, ‘Medieval Life’ and ‘Medieval Social Archaeology’.

The publication includes papers by Reading archaeologists Roberta Gilchrist, Grenville Astill, Mary Lewis, Gundula Mueldner and Aleks Pluskowski.

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