(Originally posted 6th September 2006)

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 ;)


Ceri said…
Which exhibition or museum sticks in your mind, and why?

My earliest memory of a museum was going to Lincolnshire Life Museum with my primary school in Leasingham, nr Sleaford. I remember being impressed by the mangle and a rug made out of rags. At the same time I visited Lincoln Cathedral and Castle with my parents which I think helped to develop my interest in medieval history, although at that age (5 or 6?) I was too scared to go in the dungeon ;)

What first got you interested in your research subject?

I have always been interested in medieval history but through working with RCMG and focusing on learning it got me thinking about why we need to learn history and what is its purpose, particularly history that is as much myth as it is 'fact.' The last time I had thought about this was at school when my history teacher urged me to write a paper about the point of history so I am rekindling that interest but also looking at history in relation to how young people understand medieval history which is something I am keen to understand. Does it have any relevance?

How do you maintain motivation?

This is a good question! I am luckily extremely interested in my subject, perhaps too interested as I keep going off on tangents all the time! I guess the thing that keeps me motivated is that it is possibly the only chance in life to do something completely individual in terms of research and although I can't control everything I feel it is "mine" and so I owe it to myself to do well. Oh and also the possibility of being Doctor Jones like my childhood hero Dr Indiana Jones ;)

What's a good cure for writer's block?

My cure is going for a walk, perhaps to a new place or just for a wander because I find this gets my mind going again. Annoyingly I always forget to take a pen and paper because its normally when I'm walking that I have the inspiration to begin again!

A second strategy is to just put down all the thoughts, any thoughts, about a subject even if it sounds rubbish. Then I leave it a day and go back to it. Even though it reads badly at least there are ideas to work from. I find the best thing is not to force writing - something has to 'click' in the mind first!
Attic said…
I'm still scared to go into dungeons! :P

Ah, well I'm glad it's not just me who has problems getting started. I think I need to find somewhere to work where there are absolutely NO distractions! No telly, no Internet, no friends, NOTHING! And then, perhaps, I'll be bored into working. ;)
Ceri said…
That is why I am glad my parents have moved to the Isle of Mann because there are few distractions - I don't know anybody and my Dad is on the computer all the time! But it is a bit of an extreme solution :D

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