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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

How a conference on George I and a trip to LA lit some more PhD sparks

James' paper, questions about Bath Corporation, linking my story to his, paper which took my research in another direction, more to think about,
Questions from the floor which made me consider the role of the GL family in relation to the city, links to the reasons for their demise….

Now that the dust has settled and I've had a holiday, its time to reflect on events at the end of term. There were two notable events, namely a Heritage trip to Los Angeles, and conference organised by the postgraduate team. The former was a last minute arrangement for me, and a delightful and fascinating opportunity. The latter was nine months in the planning, and I had the role of team leader in the organisational group (working along with the rest of the team, notably Georgie Moore and Rachel Smith)

Neither of the events were directly linked to my PhD research, but yet again, it seems that in academia, all routes lead to important thought processes, greater skills acquisition and opportunities for development. There is, it seems, no such thing as a wasted day…

The conference organisation was a brilliant learning curve, and Georgie and I both now feel able to tackle this sort of thing again. Our past experience in catering and organisational roles helped a great deal, it must be said, but added to this was the fact that (again) we work well together; its a complementary arrangement.

The Conference was arranged to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the succession of George I, and featured an international cast of scholars, each with their own unique slant on the events around the Hanoverian succession of 1714. Fellow PhD researchers James Camp and I presented papers, and the panel was chaired by Georgie Moore. Although the period was outside both James and my areas of work, our supervisors had encouraged us to explore beyond our comfort zones and to deliver papers in the relatively safe environment of our own conference. The experience proved extremely useful, and rewarding. I chose to reflect on the transition of the country house around the Georgian period, with Newton Park as a case study. I was able to use some of undergraduate archive student Adam King's research into the Langton's of Bristol. Adam carried out this research alongside his dissertation work, with visits to Bristol Record Office. His discoveries complemented and illuminated some of the documentary clues we have within BSU Archive itself, relating to the background of the Langton family at the time they purchased Newton Park in 1666, and their motivations in developing the estate in the 18th century.

James' paper provided a description of Bath's Royal patronage and aspects of the city's demonstration of loyalty to the crown. The questions which followed served to combine public and private demonstrations of wealth, influence and power at the time of the succession, and the ways these ideas were transmitted by the early Georgians in Bath itself. The whole experience made me reflect on Newton Park's role as an important establishment, and how it fitted into the life of Bath, then and now. This has led to a reconsidering of the way the college of the 20th century saw and used its own history. The corporate use of a historical landscape has changed over the years, but in essence it remains the same - history is used to enhance the present, in order to present a particular image; it creates or sustains a certain message to the rest of society.

The heritage trip to Los Angeles followed the next day, and provided the opportunity to carry these thoughts further, as a group from BSU were taken to a number of heritage sites, and attended discussion meetings with a range of arts management professionals. This all took place against the backdrop of the Claremont Colleges, just east of LA itself. Again, the use of the historical built environment to enhance the present was evident, and provided even more chances for reflection on this aspect of Newton Park's representations of itself. Mary Dawson, the college principal in the post war era, used these representations of longevity, solidity, tradition and heritage to inform her ideas of cultural reproduction and the making of a new generation of women. My reading has revealed that this balance of a solid background of tradition for a modern world was a strong thread in the immediate postwar era, before they grew into dichotomous ideas by the late 1950s and 1960s. I plan to explore this period and feeling as I believe its a clue to the ethos of the college in its founding years.

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