7 years Heritage logo on a starry background: Sharing Knowledge, Building Partnerships, Growing Expertise

As part of this week’s #TORCHGoesDigital theme of Journeys, Dr Oliver Cox introduces a range of recent projects that engage with the tangible and intangible heritage of travel. These projects, supported through the Knowledge Exchange and Heritage Seed Funds, span the globe and demonstrate the geographical scope of research at Oxford. Dr Hanna Smyth presents a compilation of Trusted Source articles, created in partnership with the National Trust.


Recent projects supported by the Heritage Partnerships Team stretch across the globe - from Siberia to St Helena. This geographical spread is characteristic of a global university, and the projects highlight the expansive nature of heritage-related research at Oxford.


Anya Gleizer, Jaaniker Vider and Pablo Fernandez Velasco undertook an expedition to the Siberian arctic in the footsteps of the pioneering anthropologist Maria Czaplicka, with the aim of creating a partnership between a native Evenki institution, the Tura Museum, and Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum. The project, Wandering through Other Worlds Talking with the Sprits, introduced elders and children in remote Evenki communities to VR technology so they could use it share their stories with audiences in Oxford.


Dr Olly Owen, working with Professor Wale Adebanwi, was awarded a Social Science Knowledge Exchange Fellowship grant to work with Lagos-based heritage groups on public outreach and rail heritage in Nigeria. For the Heritage Partnerships Team, Dr Owen’s project proved to be an example of the value the University derives from its membership of The Heritage Alliance, who were able to link Dr Owen with a range of UK-based rail heritage organisations to provide peer-learning to Nigerian colleagues.


The lockdown and remote working conditions caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink how we approach international partnership working. With physical journeys from Oxford suspended for the foreseeable future, some projects have been able to pivot to online working. Nowhere is this more necessary than with Alex Kither’s funded internship with the British Napoleonic Bicentenary Heritage Trust, where he has been coordinating a range of online activities designed to raise awareness of the historic sites on the remote island of St Helena, where Napoleon spent the final six years of his life.


Closer to home, two doctoral researchers worked in close collaboration with museum collections and curators in projects that explore the many aspects of the experience of travel. Lisa Hirst, worked with the extensive collection of hotel-related objects of the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York for her doctoral project Britain’s Pioneering Railway Hotels: a social and architectural history, 1839-1854', whilst Anthropology D.Phil researcher JC Niala worked with the Museum of Oxford to document journeys to Oxford, in preparation for a new permanent exhibition gallery.


Oxford’s National Trust Partnership has also explored different types of journeys through its Trusted Source articles. Created in partnership with the National Trust, Trusted Source is a growing knowledge bank of concise and accessible articles about history, culture and the natural environment; written by academics and National Trust specialists, these engaging articles address subjects relating to important places and collections that the National Trust cares for. Oxford’s Helena Guzik discussed National Trust places with connections to pilgrimage, and Tim Flight wrote about a 7th century hermit whose life and pilgrimages are still reflected in the landscape today. Meanwhile, art historian Jocelyn Anderson has provided insights into eighteenth century tourist journeys and the invention of country house guidebooks, and Elena Ene Draghici-Vasilescu has delved into the journeys of both pilgrims and objects that shaped the relationship between Byzantium and Britain.  

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