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Researching Adult Learning at Manchester Art Gallery

by YPU Admin on January 7, 2016, Comments. Tags: Humanities, learning, manchester, Manchester Art Gallery, masters, Museums, Research, and UoM

Introduction

Hello, my name is Ed Trotman and I’m employed as a graduate intern with the University of Manchester, working specifically on the Schools-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI). I’ve recently graduated from the University with an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies. Prior to this I completed an undergraduate degree in History at the University of Bristol.

You might not have heard of Museum Studies as a degree option - it involves the study of the role of museums and galleries in society as well as how museum professionals (e.g. curators, conservators, educationalists) go about putting on displays and exhibitions. The idea is that it provides a basic training to enter the museum sector. As a Master’s degree it took place over the duration of a year (although some Masters take longer!). In this time I learnt about a variety of aspects of museum work. I also did a lot of volunteering with staff at the Manchester Museum, the Manchester Central Library, the Museum of Science and Industry and Manchester Art Gallery. The course culminated in a research project assignment. This could be on any topic related to Art Gallery and Museum Studies. 

Thinking about my experiences of learning about and working in museums and art galleries I decided that I wanted to investigate the educational role of these institutions. I discovered that cultural organisations play a bigger role in society than I was aware of. It is common, for instance, to find that museums carry out community outreach projects in poorer socio-economic areas, host workshop classes for the very elderly and those with dementia and provide educational activities for people of all ages and backgrounds struggling with disability.

Despite their social good however, factors including transport costs, limited free time and a lack of familiarity with cultural institutions often prevent many adults from accessing the museum’s educational resources. I was interested to know how museums and galleries could seek to attract more adult visitors to talks and workshops, how best to engage with them whilst they were there and how to encourage them to come again. 


In Depth

After doing some reading I found that not that much research had been done by academics within the field of Museum Studies into adult education in cultural institutions (which was actually pretty shocking!). In order to understand more about the best ways of going about adult education in museums/galleries I looked at Adult Learning theory. In particular, I read about the Theory of Andragogy by Malcolm S. Knowles. This is a foundational theory of adult learning which states that adults learn differently to children. Knowles defines six key principles which explain how adults learn differently. These include the ideas that adults rely heavily on lived experience to learn, that they always need to know why they need to learn something before learning it and that they prefer to be self-directed when learning. When these ideas were published in the sixties they were fairly controversial but have now become more accepted. Knowles argues that these principles can be applied to almost any situation in which adults are being encouraged to learn.

The focus of my research was to understand if Knowles’ principles had broader application within cultural institutions. I assessed two educational sessions for adults at Manchester Art Gallery including a gallery tour and a workshop, carrying out focus group interviews with participants in both. I found that, in the workshop class, many of these ideas were already being used by gallery staff to great effect and could be seen to have application. In the tour session meanwhile it was clear that teaching staff were contravening several of Knowles’s principles and consequently adults reported feeling frustrated with their experiences. As a result I concluded that the principles of Andragogy had practical use here. The process of carrying out this research and writing it up was really interesting, especially as I felt like I was contributing something new to the field of Museum Studies. I got to speak to members of the public about art and art galleries and practice my interview skills. 


Going Further

If you want to find out more about my MA, the Theory of Andragogy or the sessions I attended at Manchester Art Gallery follow the links below:

Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/masters/courses/list/01100/art-gallery-and-museum-studies-ma/

Knowles’ Theory of Andragogy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andragogy

Manchester Art Gallery, Exhibitions and Events: http://manchesterartgallery.org/exhibitions-and-events/

Museums Association http://www.museumsassociation.org/home


 

Combining Cultures Through Music

Introduction

My name is José Guillermo Puello. I grew up in the Dominican Republic where I went to a French school. When I finished school I came to the UK to study music at university. I recently graduated with a PhD in Composition from the University of Manchester. My research focused on the integration of Dominican music and culture with European contemporary concert music. My thesis consisted of seven original pieces of music, including works for orchestra, for small chamber ensemble, duets and trios. I decided to pursue this area because I wanted my music to reflect my background. As the research progressed, I became interested in how the audience perceived the music and how I could integrate extra-musical elements into my music.

When I started my undergraduate degree, I never thought I was going to do a Master’s degree, let alone a PhD. It was towards the end of my second year that I started to integrate Dominican dance music (i.e. merengue) into my compositions. I continued to develop this throughout my third year and my Master’s. As a result, my style became clearer and my Masters supervisor suggested that I do the doctorate. These past four years doing the PhD provided the opportunity to better define what I want my music to be.

In depth

My doctoral research focused on integrating Dominican cultural elements into my music, building strong musical structures and developing my rhythmic language. To this effect, I researched the music of other Latin American composers, such as Astor Piazzolla, Amadeo Roldán, Tania León, Julio Alberto Hernandez, Alberto Ginastera and Leo Brouwer, to evaluate how they incorporated Latin American elements into their music. I also researched the music of other composers, such as Stravinsky, Birtwistle, Debussy, Bartók, Berio and Ligeti, to understand how other composers dealt with rhythm, folk music and the articulation of musical structures.

The act of composing is not just writing notes on the page but also of listening, studying and problem-solving. I don’t think I know of any composer that just sits down to write the music in their head. I always compare composing to an architect designing a building. It very often starts with a concept/idea that the composer/architect tries to realise using the techniques they have developed and borrowing/adapting the ideas and techniques of others.

During my PhD, my research into Dominican culture mainly influenced the concept of the piece that I was composing. For example, I wrote an orchestral piece based on a religious ritual and another based on a Dominican poem. As I read about the Dominican Republic and its history I realised that the fusion I was creating in my music could be compared to the melting pot of cultures that shaped Dominican history. The music, whilst taking inspiration in Dominican music, is closer in style to the music of European composers (i.e. contemporary classical music) than to merengue or salsa songs.

One of the most gratifying aspects of being a composer is writing for and collaborating with other talented musicians. I have been fortunate enough to have my music performed by a number of professional and amateur ensembles, including Manchester Camerata, Psappha, The Fourth Wall Ensemble and Quatuor Danel, in the UK, Europe, Canada, USA and the Dominican Republic. Furthermore, each new piece brings its own challenges, which provides the opportunity to keep learning and to keep imagining new musical possibilities.

Going further

If you would like to know more about the University of Manchester Music Department and the very active Manchester University Music Society, you can visit the following websites:

- http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/music/

-  http://www.mumusicsociety.co.uk

You can visit my website: www.joseguillermopuello.com or listen to my music on soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/jgpuello  

Below are some links to pieces that I have listened to and studied as part of my PhD.

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring

The video has a five-minute introduction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq1q6u3mLSM

Piazzolla’s Adios Nonino

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTPec8z5vdY

Ligeti’s Trio for Violin, French Horn and Piano

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQTNEx4P3qU

Juan Luis Guerra Todo tiene su hora (merengue song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4s_5gfCNhY

Berio’s Sequenza III (for voice)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGovCafPQAE

Birtwistle’s Ritual Fragment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAIKZiXPDRA

Messiaen’s Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f4qdJHatNM

Debussy’s La mer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlR9rDJMEiQ

Varèse’s Ionisation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wClwaBuFOJA

Brouwer’s El decameron negro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbcW8X73MBI

 

My Journey to a Masters in Italy

From High School I knew I really wanted to study languages and hopefully pursue a career in translation or interpreting. So I chose French and Italian at Manchester because I wanted to continue studying French after taking it at A Level; but I also wanted the opportunity to start a new language from scratch. Manchester offered several ab-initio languages and I decided I really wanted to study Italian.

During my time at Manchester I particularly enjoyed the modules which focused on core language and also linguistics, such as Structures of French Language, French Syntax & Morphology and The Structures of Modern Italian. They allowed me to gain a greater and more in-depth knowledge of both languages whilst benefitting my spoken language and understanding of where modern day French and Italian both stem from.

After graduating, I planned to work for one year, and now, having gained this experience, I will go to Italy and study for a Masters in Language, Society and Communication at The University of Bologna.


 

Humanity and Nature in 21st Century Chilean Cinema

by YPU Admin on August 20, 2015, Comments. Tags: Chile, cinema, culture, Humanities, humanity, languages, Latin America, media, nature, Research, and spanish

Introduction

My name is Nicola and I’m currently in the second year of an AHRC-funded PhD in Latin American Cultural Studies. My A-levels were in Spanish, French, History and Mathematics and in 2006 I went on to study Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge in Scotland.

 As part of my first degree, I spent a year living and working as a translator in the city of Valparaíso in central Chile. After continuing at Cambridge to complete a Masters degree in Latin American Studies (specialising in Film and Visual Arts), I then moved to Manchester in 2011 where I trained and worked as a secondary school Spanish teacher.

In 2013, I began my PhD in the department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Manchester. My research explores how films influence and reflect the relationship between humanity and nature in the 21st century, with a particular focus on the representation of natural landscapes in contemporary Chilean cinema.

In Depth

Just over half of the world’s population now lives in cities and this figure is expected to increase to around two-thirds by 2050. When so many people live in urban environments, what does this mean for how we encounter and experience nature in the 21st century?

For many of us, the film and television screen is an important point of contact with the natural world. We watch nature documentaries, travel programmes, adventure films and cartoon animals, through which we encounter places, habitats and landscapes that we never experience in real life. The vision of nature that we see on-screen doesn’t simply reflect our relationship to nature; it also shapes it.

My research looks at films produced in Chile, a country with one of the most diverse and fascinating natural landscapes in the world. From north to south, Chile is the longest country in the world, stretching from the world’s driest desert in the north, through fertile agricultural valleys, chains of volcanoes and ancient forests, to the frozen expanses of Antarctica in the South. This huge natural diversity and geographical variety is reflected in its contemporary cinema, which makes it an interesting and important body of films for those of us interested in cinema and the natural environment.

The central argument of my thesis is that analyses of cinematic landscapes can no longer be confined to the landscape’s role as a symbol of national identity or an allegory of some aspect of national history. Instead, natural spaces can be more usefully discussed as “postnational landscapes”, which are marked by personal, local and global forces as much as by national cultures.

By expanding and refining approaches to landscape and nature in contemporary cinema, my research contributes to a growing academic interest in how culture influences our attitudes towards nature and how this impacts on the future of humanity’s relationship with the planet.

Going Further

For updates about my research activities, follow me on Twitter: @nicolarunciman

To watch new films by Chilean directors online, visit: http://www.cinepata.com/

For English language reviews and articles on South American cinema, music and art: http://www.soundsandcolours.com/

To find out what we’re up to in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, visit our blog: http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/splas/


 

Witchcraft and demonic possession!

by YPU Admin on July 9, 2015, Comments. Tags: demons, french, history, Humanities, imagery, medieval, Religion, Research, theology, and witchcraft

Introduction

My name is Tom and I am embarking on a PhD in History at the University of Manchester this autumn. I studied for my BA in History at Manchester and I’m currently finishing my masters in Gender History at the University of Glasgow. In between these courses I spent a year working as an English Language Assistant in two secondary schools in Lille, France. During my undergraduate studies I developed a passion for early modern beliefs about the supernatural and I wrote a dissertation on sixteenth-century French demonological treatises (you could call these witch-hunting manuals!). My research has now taken me to the phenomenon of demonic possession in sixteenth and seventeenth-century France and England, particularly on how possession narratives contributed to the cultural construction of the body.

In Depth

Demonic Possession may seem strange to us now, something you expect to see in a horror film, but during the early modern period it was an extremely important phenomenon. There were perhaps thousands of cases of possession and exorcism across continental Europe, including France, during the early modern period (c. 1500-1800).Young boys and girls, often teenagers or young adults, were recorded as having seizures, possessing unnatural strength, speaking in ‘foreign tongues’, levitating and spitting out objects like pins and nails. There are many cases in France where entire convents of nuns were said to be possessed by the devil. During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, when Western Christianity split and Protestant churches emerged, demonic possession and exorcism acted as a vehicle of religious propaganda, a way of showing which religious denomination God favoured.

However it was also an important phenomenon for everyday people. Men and women flocked to see public exorcisms in France and there was a booming book trade which centred on stories of demoniacs (a possessed person) which would rival the best Stephen King novel. In this way demonic possession can be viewed as a type of performance, even a form of mass-entertainment. This is where my research centres. I’m interested in why demonic possession was such an important phenomenon in this period but also how it affected other areas of people’s lives. I look at the use of the body within the performance of demonic possession and how it was written about and understood. I use a wealth of documentation left behind, from the trials of witches accused of causing possession, personal and witness testimonies of possessions and exorcisms and the wealth of printed books which distributed these narratives to a mass audience. In doing so I hope to shed light on how beliefs surrounding the supernatural were connected to early modern cultural ideas about the body and the life-cycle.

I developed my interest for this area of history in my final year of undergraduate studies during a module on Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Europe and I was supported by my supervisors in developing this project. Having French language skills made this a viable PhD project and so if I could give one word of advice it would be to learn a language! Not only do languages give you a competitive edge in academia or on the job market but they’re actually pretty fun and (cliché alert) really do take you places. It was fantastic having the opportunity to live in France and practice my French for a year. I gained life-long friends and memories plus I’ve picked up practical skills in the process. It’s never too late to learn either! I started learning Latin this year and in fact your first year at university is the perfect time to experiment. Manchester’s University Language Centre lets you take a language as part of any degree programme. You may not have clicked with French, German or Spanish at school but have you ever thought about Portuguese, Polish, Chinese or even Arabic? Try it and who knows where you’ll end up!

Going Further

There really is a wealth of on-line resources out there on early modern Europe and the Supernatural. Also, in 2016 there will be an exhibition, “Magic and the Expanding Early Modern World”, at John Rylands Library on Deansgate!

15-Minute History: “Demonic Possession” in Early Modern Europe (Podcast) (http://15minutehistory.org/2013/10/23/demonic-possession-in-early-modern-europe/)

The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft (http://www.shca.ed.ac.uk/Research/witches/)

The Damned Art: The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (Internet Exhibition) (http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/specialcollections/virtualexhibitions/damnedart/)

The Many-Headed Monster (Blog) (https://manyheadedmonster.wordpress.com/)

The Pendle Witch Trial (Documentary) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv-JDUfADiw)

A helpful website on European Witchcraft (http://www.witchcraftandwitches.com/index.html)

Women and the Early Modern Witch Hunts (Blog Post) (http://www.jesswatson.co.uk/post/78990856670/women-and-the-early-modern-witch-hunts)