Black Country Studies Research Network Launch

Black Country Studies Research Network launch speakers (left to right): Stuart Connor, Paul Barnsley, Jenny Gilbert, Mary Mahoney, Kerry Hadley-Pryce, Andrew Lovett, Simon Briercliffe.

The Black Country Studies Centre marked its one year anniversary on 21st November 2019. The landmark was celebrated with the launch of the Black Country Studies Research Network, held in the University of Wolverhampton’s Chancellor’s Hall. The Network brought together over 60 researchers, museum and heritage professionals and community group representatives.

During the event, four speakers spoke passionately about the meanings, opportunities, complexities and importance of studying the Black Country. There was also a networking forum to promote partnership working.

The pioneering BCSC partnership formalises the existing collaboration and strong relationship between the University of Wolverhampton and the Black Country Living Museum. In bringing together two of the region’s flagship institutions, the Centre is uniquely placed to make a unique and ambitious contribution to the future of the Black Country, whilst engaging with and exploring its past and present.

It has been a busy first twelve months for the BCSC following the stakeholder launch in November 2018. Here’s a round-up of the Centre’s key activities and achievements so far:

Dr Jenny Gilbert was appointed as coordinator in May 2019. Jenny has a background in working collaboratively with museums and completed her AHRC-funded PhD in History at the University of Wolverhampton in 2016. Since joining the Centre, she has been making connections with colleagues across the University and Museum in order to explore new opportunities for teaching, outreach and research.

The Centre is building on existing collaborations between the two organisations and developing new partnerships and projects. Examples include a developing relationship between the University’s automotive engineering course and the BCLM’s Sunbeam Club – an educational enhancement project that involves primary school children building an electric vehicle. Colleagues in Visual Communications have worked closely with the museum to develop digital projections for the BCLM’s Christmas evenings. This activity will be developed into a live brief for Visual Communications students in 2020.

In September the BCSC facilitated the handover of a rare collection of twentieth century fashion photography from the Express and Star Photo Archive to the Wolverhampton School of Art. The images, dating back to 1914, provide a valuable insight to the history of fashionable dress and how fashion was communicated to people living in the Black Country. There are plans in place to build on the partnership between the BCSC and the E&S Photo Archive in 2020.

The BCSC supported the BCLM’s successful £65,000 bid to the Arts Council Designation Development Fund, for research into the museum’s large collection of historical pharmaceutical packaging. The project will bring together University of Wolverhampton researchers from pharmacy, design and history to apply their expertise to this fascinating project. The funding decision is expected shortly.

As 2019 draws to a close, the BCSC is looking ahead to 2020 and the opportunities it holds in store. The new programme of BCSC study days launches in March and will act as a bridge between formal and informal learning and introduce University scholarship to new audiences and communities. Themes for 2020 cover everything from theatre to 1950s fashion, all with a distinctive Black Country twist! The second Black Country Studies Network event, ‘Black Country Landscapes’ will take place on Thursday 20th February at the Black Country Living Museum. Details of these events will appear on the BCSC website in January 2020. Events will be listed on the events pages of the BCSC website, so watch this space!

It is a very exciting year for the BCLM, as the £23million Forging Ahead development enters its delivery phase. The BCSC is leading the research activity programme for Forging Ahead and will be developing a portfolio of research collaborations and publications, including work with academics in Architecture and Built Environment, Public Health, Social Care and Arts and Health.

The BCSC would like to thank everyone who has supported the first year of the Centre and to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2020.

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