University Public Engagement Awards for two Kellogg Fellows

28 June 2017

We are delighted to announce that two Kellogg Fellows have been recognised in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards. Emeritus Fellow Professor Gary Lock has won an award for a citizen science project, The Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. Visiting Fellow, Dr Steven Parissien‘s project was Unsilencing the Library: An exhibition at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Museum. The announcement was made on 28 June at an awards ceremony at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. It was hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson, herself an Honorary Fellow of Kellogg College.

The Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

Hillforts are the most prominent and often spectacular field monument of the later prehistoric period found across the UK. The Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland gathered existing data on UK hillforts and combined it with new information to create a website to be used by a wide range of audiences. The project was recognised in the Collaboration Project Award category, which covers research projects that have involved the public, including co-creation, co-production of knowledge and citizen science. Citizen scientists were recruited as volunteers to collect data by visiting and surveying hillforts. They were provided with a detailed survey form together with guidance notes, and over 60 talks and training sessions were delivered to support them. Around 400 people were actively involved, with many more attending the conferences, talks and training days.

The resulting atlas – which can be viewed at https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk – is a complex database of around 120 fields, which records over 4,100 sites linked to mapping and satellite images. The data provides new insights into these monuments based on patterns and relationships that have never been possible before at this scale. The Bodleian Wikipedian in Residence and a team of voluntary Wikipedians are creating a Wiki page for each of the sites comprising a summary version of each database record. In the process, the volunteers gained new skills, increased their knowledge about hillforts and had the opportunity to enjoy being involved in a research project. Simon Maddison of the British Excavation Volunteers and Archaeological Research Society summed it up: “We feel proud to have made a genuine contribution to a major research project.”

The project was funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council. Professor Lock, of the Department of Continuing Education and the School of Archaeology, was joined by a project team consisting of Professor Ian Ralston and Mr Stratford Halliday of the University of Edinburgh, and Dr Ian Brown and Dr Paula Levick of the University of Oxford.

Unsilencing the Library

Dr Steven Parissien is Director of Compton Verney museum and gallery in Warwickshire. This was virtually a ruin by 1993, before it was restored to its former glory. In one room, however, a key decorative feature remained intact – a set of 19th Century imitation books framing the doorway. The project focused on finding the creator of this ‘mock’ bookshelf in which all the authors were women, and co-curating an exhibition with the public. It transpired that the ‘books’ were commissioned in the 1860s by Georgiana Verney, wife of the 17th Lord Willoughby de Broke and something of a quiet pioneer, championing education, women’s rights, and literacy. Individuals and communities were then invited to select real books to accompany this Victorian feminist bookshelf. This year’s guest curators include actor and campaigner Emma Watson, local school pupils, and members of Prison Reading Groups.

The project directly engaged with nearly 100 prisoners (60,000 through prison media), school pupils, teachers, bookbinders, textile designers, and museum staff. It also offered Compton Verney’s 80,000 annual visitors new insights into why books mattered in the past, and why they still do today. The accompanying website – www.unsilencingthelibrary.com – is an ongoing learning resource, and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour are featuring the exhibition in a specially recorded programme. Dr Sarah Turvey, Director of Prison Reading Groups, commented on the difference it had made: “Books can be a great escape for those in difficult circumstances, but they also connect us to the world outside, to each other and to ourselves. The project has helped prisoners do just this.”

The project team was led by Dr Sophie Ratcliffe of the Faculty of English Language and Literature, and included Dr Ceri Hunter and Dr Eleanor Lybeck of Oxford University as well as Ms Pip Shergold of Compton Verney. It was supported by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), Aurelius, The Country Houses Foundation, and The William Delafield Foundation.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor congratulated the participants: “I have been deeply impressed by the quality of the public engagement with research projects submitted for this year’s awards. The breadth and diversity of the activities taking place show how seriously the University takes its commitment to public engagement.”

Professor Alison Woollard, the University’s Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research said: “Public engagement enriches both research and society and the University is committed to enabling our researchers to inspire, consult and collaborate with the public. I’m delighted that we are able to recognise and highlight the fantastic work our researchers are doing and hope these awards encourage more colleagues across the University to carry out their own public engagement with research.”