WRoCAH Small Award Series: Megan Henvey

WRoCAH Small Award Blog Series

This collection of blog posts shares the innovative and productive ways in which WRoCAH students have used the Small Awards scheme. Click on any of the names below to see how Small Awards have helped with these students’ research projects and/or professional training.

(New posts will be added to this series throughout the autumn term 2019).

Francesca Curtis

Art Gallery Research Trips

Megan Henvey

My Life in Small Awards

Clare Danek

Silk Screens and Wobbly Pots

Coming soon

Musical Performance and Recording

 

Megan Henvey

Department of History of Art, University of York

2016 Cohort


3 years, 12 conferences, 6 research institutions, 1 language course and a PhD (pending!) that couldn’t have been done without the 17 WRoCAH Small Awards that funded them!

In the first year of my PhD, Small Awards enabled me to undertake a series of trips to conferences, exhibitions and various libraries and archives accessing all the necessary resources exactly when I needed them as my project grew and developed through those initial stages.

At the British Library I attended a workshop on presenting and incorporating non-text information in the thesis, which was incredibly useful as my thesis will include a huge number of images and maps. Capitalising on the opportunity of being in London and at the British Library, I also called up one of only six surviving copies of Henry O’Neill’s 1857, Illustrations of the most interesting of the sculptured crosses of ancient: a huge volume with woodcut prints of carefully sketched studies of some of the crosses central to my thesis. As part of my project deals with the politicised historiography of the early medieval Christian sculpture in Ireland, seeing which details of the crosses had been focused on for recording in the nineteenth century was incredibly illuminating.

Similarly, another Small Award brought me to the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland where I was able to look at mid-nineteenth-century, unpublished antiquarian notes and drawings of high crosses. These occur in a number of collections but one which was particularly valuable was the archive of Alexander Johns: drawings made, and notes taken by him and others with whom he corresponded chart some monuments now lost to us, as well as highlighting the collaborative nature of early scholarship/antiquarianism.

Also in my first year, Small Awards supported me to give my first two conference papers, one at the International Insular Arts Conference, held in Glasgow. Since then, my paper has come through peer review and will be included in the Conference Proceedings Volume. Hot Tip: in my application for funding to attend the conference, I stated that I would use Glasgow’s ‘NextBike’ system to travel between my accommodation and the conference venues; WRoCAH really liked this not only as a cost-saving measure (much better than trams, buses or taxis) but also because of the environmental impact (or lack thereof). If you’re a competent and confident cyclist who doesn’t mind travelling with your helmet, then I would really recommend considering this, wherever you are going, as a means of building some good juju with both WRoCAH and the universe!

Further to this, in first year, a Small Award supported my language learning requirements, covering the costs of registration in the Latin Level 1 course at the University of York. This was a fab course that set me up for the Level 2 course the following year, and I am now employing this new knowledge in the preparation of the final chapter of my thesis that deals with the theological and liturgical contexts of the sculptures.

I spent most of second year away from York, on my REP, my IPS at the Library of Congress, and on a two-month research trip to Dublin, and so I used fewer Small Awards, attending two UK-based conferences and one archival trip. I probably should have made more use of Small Awards while in the States in order to travel to NY and Princeton where I may have been able to access other useful archives, but I found myself so heavily immersed in the research community, and research to be done at the Library of Congress itself, that I didn’t feel I had the need, or the time, for such further explorations. I did attend the Leeds International Medieval Congress – an expensive registration cost made feasible only by WRoCAH’s understanding that it really is a necessary expenditure.

In the third year, I have attended and given papers at nine conferences – arguably too many. Some of these, being based in the UK, were supported by Small Awards, and others I combined with other primary research data gathering needs to submit a Large Award. Although this was a lot, I have found it a really constructive time on so many levels. On a practical note, it has opened up a number of opportunities to me: at one conference, I was invited to give a paper at the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, and at another I had the idea for a collaborative project with two postdoctoral candidates at Durham and Glasgow and began planning for that. I also received the offer of some funding to undertake a much-needed geological survey of my primary materials, the high crosses. Slightly more nebulously, but I would argue equally importantly, these experiences of presenting my work, meeting scholars working in analogous areas, and participating in the discussions that these events generated, has given me a big confidence boost in my work and my ability to do it. Although attending so many conferences was time consuming, the benefits have been huge, and I would advise any student nervous about such an outlay of time and energy to just get out there – within reason!

 

Overall, Small Awards have enabled me to learn new languages, attend workshops, visit archives, attend conferences to present my work, and fatefully, have put me in the right place at the right time to capitalise on further opportunities. They are an incredible resource, well worth the short time required to research and prepare the short application form. On that note, a final piece of advice: usually, my Small Award applications involved more than one activity. I am blessed/cursed (delete as you see fit) with an insatiable need to utilise every spare moment – and penny – and as such, I like my trips to be as productive as humanly possible. I suspect this may be one reason I have had good success with my Small Award applications. If you can segue a second or third activity into your research trip/conference attendance/exhibition visit, I would strongly advise you to do so; your research will benefit, and you’re more likely to get the funding you need!

 

To read more about Megan’s PhD project, ‘The Northern Group of Irish High Crosses: Simply a Matter of Geography?‘, visit the WRoCAH Research pages.