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Project update: end of 1st year

Published on
10 Sep 2016
Written by
Laura Molloy

As my first year of work on this OIIRuskinDACS doctoral project comes to a close, and I prepare for the second year of activity, I wanted to share a brief overview of some of the things I have been doing.  This first year has focused on the introductory meetings and presentations to and with my project stakeholders including a seminar at the OII, a seminar / mini-workshop at the Ruskin School of Art, and a presentation and Q&A at DACS, and then preparation for the Transfer viva, which is the end of year exam for DPhil (i.e. PhD) students here at Oxford. There have been a number of other interesting courses (including statistics and research methods), advising on projects (OAR, #socialhumanities) and events (more of which below) along the way, some of which have been compulsory commitments, but all of which have been fascinating.

But the main goal this year, as far as the University is concerned, was ‘Transfer of Status‘ – you transfer from being a ‘probationer research student’ to a ‘DPhil student’.  This basically means you have to convince the university that you know what you want to do in your project, can justify why the project is worthwhile, and have a sound plan for how you’re going to do it.  To get this completed, firstly I presented at the OII DPhil seminar and fielded questions from staff and students.  Then the viva itself was conducted at the OII. Two scholars who are not involved in my supervision asked me questions about the project for about 90 minutes. After supplying an additional appendix expanding on the academic (as opposed to practical) case for the work, I’m very pleased to have passed and be able to move onto my next phase.

Beyond the university processes, I was invited to talk about the work of the thesis – including a description of DACS and its work – at the University of Edinburgh in April 2016 at the ‘Research Data, Records and Archives: Breaking the Boundaries ‘ workshop, to an audience of researchers and university librarians. Here, my main argument was about the need for genuinely interdisciplinary research which allows space for each other’s research and communication processes, and how art schools are part of the UK HE and research sector and so data management and archiving skills need to engage with those creative domains too, to support current and future artists in training.

In June 2016, I was invited to talk at the EU Presidency Conference on Digitisation of Cultural Heritage (‘Ready to Reach Out’), in Amsterdam, and to sit on a panel at the same event.  This audience was a large group of EU policy makers, digital preservation and curation staff from cultural heritage institutions, and those working in creative arts organisations from across the EU. Here, again I introduced the project and the role of DACS and argued that when considering the challenges of handling digital assets from art making processes it is important to start with consideration of the artist.  I also highlighted the value of strong liaison and accession policies for cultural heritage institutions. When these are built upon a foundation of knowledge exchange with the visual arts community this, to my mind, is the most responsible way forward.  I pointed out that for art objects of all kinds to continue to make memory institutions the valued organisations that they are, we need to attend to policy and training that helps artists to sustain their practice.

Upcoming presentations include a paper at SciDataCon, part of International Data Week in Denver, Colorado, on 13 Sept 2016.  Following that, I will be speaking at an event in Helsinki hosted by the DACS partner institution Kuvasto, the visual arts copyright society in Finland. The title of the conference is ‘Show Me the Money. The New Economy for Visual Artists in the Global Village’ and I will also be running a workshop there with artists and designers to map their workflows and identify the digital tasks of their practice.

A really productive year was rounded off by confirmation that I had been accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts – this is a great honour and I’m really excited about the potential it opens up for new connections and ideas.

As always, I welcome questions and comments, and can be contacted by email at laura.molloy AT, or on Twitter @LM_HATII.