Digital, The Social Scholar
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From research to exhibition

The School of Advanced Study’s ‘social scholar’ lunchtime seminar returns on 8 March with what promises to be a fascinating and enjoyable talk by Professor Kiera Vaclavik (Queen Mary, University of London) about how academics can successfully turn their research into an exhibition. Below, she hints at what to expect.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m professor of children’s literature and childhood culture at Queen Mary, University of London and co-director of the Centre for Childhood Cultures, a long-term formal partnership with the V&A Museum of Childhood. My research seeks to advance the study of children’s literature and childhood culture by bringing it into productive dialogue with a range of other fields including classics, postcolonial studies, fashion and music. Much of my work involves collaboration with high-profile, internationally-renowned individuals and organisations across the creative and cultural industries including the London Symphony Orchestra, Liberty of London and Marc Jacobs.

What have you learned and gained from the process of curating an exhibition based on your research?
Primarily the ability to communicate clear but sophisticated and compelling messages using not just words but also images and objects, sounds, activities and spaces. I’ve learnt that less can be more, that constraints can be enabling and that fakes aren’t always bad. I discovered that even in an exhibition about a child in a Museum of Childhood, it’s entirely possible to forget about child visitors. I experienced the sheer joy of seeing a team of immensely talented individuals coming together to make visible my quite particular take on Alice.

What can we expect from you at the Social Scholar?
Lots of beautiful images. All exhibits have their behind the scenes sagas and in this session I’ll be revealing the secret history of ‘The Alice Look’: the compromises and the concerns (which never really materialised), the last-minute sagas and stresses. I’ll be outlining what I now see as the reflexes required for curatorial work which don’t always come naturally to scholars. I’m also very happy to answer any very practical questions about pitching ideas, timelines (long), and budgets (usually small and head-achey).

For more information about this lunchtime seminar and to register your attendance please check out our event page. All Social Scholar seminars are free to attend.

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