As a PhD researcher, a key aim is to learn how to share your research both in academic circles but also more publicly. While the subject matter of my own research has shifted throughout the first year of my PhD, one element has remained very much the same: to help a wider audience engage with historic dress. As someone who stopped studying history at the age of 13, I have found dress and textiles to be an incredibly powerful tool through which to explore history – and women’s social history in particular. I have a personal interest in the First and Second World Wars, and feel strongly that there are many stories left to be told which focus on women’s experiences of conflict – particularly in the Great War of 1914-1918, which I have taken as the time period for my PhD research. In this blog I hope to explore some ideas both from my research and further afield – helping me to formulate ideas, share my research with anyone who is interested, and hopefully tell some wonderful stories through historic objects.
One of the reasons for starting this blog is my role in co-organising a workshop on research blogging in the arts & humanities, kindly funded by the SGSAH. As PhD researchers in the modern digital age, a group of us felt that we needed a little support when venturing out into the online worlds of blogging and social media, knowing there are countless pitfalls and problems facing us along the way. We are told to disseminate our research and engage with a wide public audience, yet also advised not to share PhD content in case our ideas are pinched or no longer valid for later publication. Putting your ideas and research online means facing a faceless army of critics and grammar experts. It means non-PhD friends and family can see what you are up to while ‘not working a real job,’ and it means yet another distraction from actually writing that literature review. (*cough*). However, blogging through your PhD also means sharing ideas with a wonderful online community, which I have felt very lucky to find (primarily through the joy of Twitter), and with peers in your university or funding school. And it is for this reason – and the writing practice! – that I hope to keep this blog going over the next few years.
On this blog I will be writing about dress history, women’s experiences of war, and the relationship between costume and conflict. I will document museum visits and my discoveries at Edinburgh Museums where I volunteer one day a week, review relevant books, articles, plays, exhibitions and television programmes, and tell the stories of the wonderful objects I come across in my research. I will not only focus on the First World War, and if I stray out of the 20th century (in which I am most comfortable) I can only apologise to the experts of earlier periods! I appreciate any thoughts, suggestions and comments but will be keeping things fairly informal (saving the serious writing and multiple edits for the PhD write-up!) so ask you to forgive my typos and minor-inaccuracies.
Our research blogging workshop runs on August 19th & 20th – and I am very much looking forward to sessions on the ethics and copyright issues of research blogging, on developing a WordPress blog, and growing an online presence. Things may stay quiet until then, but I hope to start blogging regularly once I’ve had the specialist training! Thanks for reading, have some good future posts in mind so please pop back soon.