Well – again, it’s terrible looking at this blog and how little I’ve updated it over the past year. But it has been because I’m busily working away and not because I can’t think of anything to write. So I’m continuing the blog catch-up! This time two months ago I was newly arrived in Washinton DC, amazed at the snow (I got here the week after Snowpocalypse 2016) getting over the jet-lag before my first day of a five month AHRC Fellow at the Kluge Center in the Library of Congress.
This has been a long time in the making. I first heard of the scheme in the first semester of my PhD through a lecturer in my department, who simply forwarded on an email to a group of PhD students publicising an open day about it in London. At first glance I wasn’t sure if I’d be interested in going to it – I’d only just started after all, and was just getting back into studying after a break of three years. However, when I read more about what the scheme offered I realised what a fantastic opportunity it was, I booked a spot on the open day so that I could hear from AHRC representatives and past Fellows. I made the application deadline in January 2015 and at the start of July, got the good news that my application had been selected while I was away on field research in Australia. I couldn’t believe it and had to wait for hours to be able to tell my partner and family as I didn’t want to ring and wake them in the middle of the night!
The AHRC’s scheme offers placements of between two and six months at different institutions across the USA, China and Japan (the ESRC has a similar scheme but its placements are all at the Library of Congress). I applied for a placement at the Library of Congress, primarily because the American Folklife Center there holds unique collections of recordings and associated material of great value to my work on the Cornish in the USA – I simply can’t access this material anywhere else. The surrounding materials in Historic Newspaper, Recorded Sound and Performing Arts Reading Rooms are also mines of information which I’ll be digging into during my time here.
So after months of anticipation, I’m now settled into my residency is in the Kluge Center. In terms of numbers, there are fifteen or so AHRC/ESRC PhD fellows, twelve Kluge Fellows, and the current Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Professor Peter Brooks of Princeton. We each have a little office or ‘Klubicle’ (I didn’t come up with this but I wish I had) that we can order books to. As part of my residency here I have to give a Work In Progress talk about my project and specifically what I’ve been doing at the Library. These usually happen about two thirds of the way through a residency, so that there’s time to follow up on any feedback – I imagine that I’ll be scheduling mine in late April or early June. This is in front of the other students, Fellows, staff in the Center, and any Reading Room staff you want to invite. Having seen two WIPs from current scholars they seem fairly informal in terms of how the presentation occurs, but since you’re surrounded by extremely sharp academics with wildly different fields of expertise, the questions are what to look out for!
I’ll be posting more about what I’m actually doing my with Fellowship soon – but in the meantime you can find out more about the AHRC’s International Placement Scheme here, and check the #ahrcips hashtag for tweets from current and past Fellows. I’ve also written a blog post about this for my department in Cardiff, which you can read here.