Let's get a bit of debate going, shall we? I've got a few questions for you all. (Choose one or two and let everyone know what you think by clicking on 'comment' at the bottom of this post.)
- Which exhibition or museum sticks in your mind, and why?
- What first got you interested in your research subject?
- How do you maintain motivation?
- What's a good cure for writer's block?
Here's what I think:
The Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester really sticks in my mind. We went several times as a family when I was young. My brothers were obsessed with dinosaurs, as only little boys can be and I was very into fossils (after a very successful fossil hunting trip to France - I found a complete ammonite fossil bigger than my hand). It was one of the first museums I ever visited that had really worked on interactivity, and had clearly recognised that their main audience were children. It was more like a playground than a museum! I remember dragging my (by that point very unwell) poor Grandad round the museum, who clearly had no interest in it whatsoever!
How did I first get interested in my research topic? Well, I have always been fascinated - from a very young age - with stuff from China. I relished Chinese take-away when I was still my high chair, my Mum can remember me being transfixed by Chinese acrobats on the telly (incidentally, they were doing a routine based on a revolutionary theme), but I think it all really started when I studied Modern China as part of GCSE History. Part of the course looked at the Tiananmen Square 'incident', which had only happened a matter of eighteen months before hand. So, although I always loved history, that was really the first time that it seemed really relevant. I can clearly remember watching Kate Adie's (for the BBC) 'tell the world' covert filming in the aftermath, and it made an enormous impression on me. I think things that get at you at that age remain significant influences for the rest of your life. But, of course, around the same time the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed - all these really massive historical, political and social events happened in the space of a few years and really captured my imagination. Plus, when I was fourteen/fifteen I thought the Manic Street Preachers' were quite the best thing since sliced bread and I lapped up all their politicking and appropriation of communist ideology and iconography (as anyone who witnessed my - very long and muddled - presentation at the last Summer School can attest to!): All those things came together to influence my interest in communism (I should point out, that in spite of popular opinion, I don't profess to being a 'communist' ;)) By the time I got to University, I was studying art history, but with a focus on Asian Art. For my dissertation I got to combine my love of all things Chinese with my interest in political art and did a study of post-1949 propagandist visual culture in China and Tibet. And, it wasn't an enormous leap from that, to studying museum studies and the image of communist China in the West.
Now, the last two questions I don't have answers for. I'm hoping you can all help me with that ;)