AHRC funded collaborative doctoral award: Power-assisted learning? Exhibiting, interpreting and teaching on technology in the twentieth-century industrial city

An AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the University of Manchester and the Museum of Science and Industry

We invite applications for a 3.5-year fully funded PhD studentship, beginning in October 2017, to explore the history of model engines and other demonstration equipment in education and museum display. The project is a collaboration between the University of Manchester, UK, and the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Manchester, and is funded by the Science Museums and Archives Consortium within the Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.
About the project
Model devices and demonstration equipment have found a wide variety of uses as tools for technical education, sources of public spectacle, aids to informal learning in museums, icons of industrial heritage, and physical symbols of the technological future. Through case studies of museum development and industry-teaching relations in twentieth-century Manchester, this project will chart how approaches to machine display have changed over time, exploring past practices to find possible lessons for present-day interpretation. Research will focus particularly on the challenges and opportunities of displaying working artefacts, such as model engines, and the meanings of “authenticity” in demonstration.
Research questions may include:
·         What roles have objects and material culture played in promoting learning on technical topics? Did Manchester’s unrivalled position as the hub of a diverse production culture for plant and instrumentation give it unique educational opportunities?
·         What are the options in dealing with objects that can be worked for display, such as model steam engines? What approaches have past exhibitors taken to the trade-off between conserving machines and displaying them in use? What attitudes have exhibitors and their audiences taken to the use of replicas and the importance of authenticity?
·         What can we learn by considering an expanded definition of “technical education”, going beyond the traditional focus on formal classroom- and workshop-based study to consider the roles of on-the-job training, self-education and informal learning in an industrial city?
·         How far can we establish who were the intended and actual audiences for formal or informal learning on technical topics, and how they responded?
·         What lessons can this history offer for Manchester’s self-presentation as a city with a distinct scientific and technological identity and agenda today?
The project will draw strongly on the Museum of Science and Industry’s collections of powered machinery and technical education artefacts, and on its holdings of archival material from a number of local industrial firms. The student will have an institutional base at the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM), but will spend a significant amount of time on site at MSI, and will receive appropriate training in dealing with collections and archives. Research from this project will contribute to MSI’s planned redisplay of its Power Hall displays, and to longer-term gallery planning.
The project supervisors are Dr James Sumner, Lecturer in History of Technology at the University of Manchester, and Ms Jan Hicks, Archives Manager at MSI. The studentship will cover full tuition fees at the UK/EU rate plus a living allowance at the standard Research Councils UK Doctoral Stipend rate (£14,553 for 2017/18: see www.rcuk.ac.uk/skills/training/) throughout the project. The award also carries up to £1000 per year of additional support from the Science Museum Group towards travel and research costs: for more information, please see http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/documents/guides/training-grant-funding-guide-2015-16/

The studentship will begin in October 2017. It is funded for 36 months, plus (subject to successful completion of the main project) a further 6 months, supported by the AHRC Student Development Fund, to allow the student to contribute further to MSI gallery development working directly alongside members of the Collections Department.

Applicants should have, or expect to receive by October 2016, a good Master’s degree in the history of science/technology, general history, museum studies, science and technology studies, or another subject closely relevant to the themes of the project. In some cases we may be able to consider relevant professional experience in place of a Master’s qualification: please contact the academic supervisor for guidance before applying. All applicants should also have at least an Upper Second-class undergraduate degree (or non-UK equivalent: see www.gov.uk/government/publications/overseas-degree-equivalency-table-and-methodology).
The award is subject to the Research Councils UK eligibility requirements, listed under Terms and Conditions of Research Council Training Grants at www.rcuk.ac.uk/funding/grantstcs/. Typically, applicants for a full award including living allowance must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK, and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years. Students from EU countries other than the UK are normally eligible for a fees-only award, if ordinarily resident in the EU.
Applicants whose native language is not English must be able to satisfy the English language entry requirements of the University of Manchester: for further guidance see www.manchester.ac.uk/study/international/admissions/language-requirements/

How to apply
The deadline for applications is Friday 31 March. Please submit
·         a letter of 1 to 2 pages outlining your suitability for the studentship
·         a CV of up to 2 pages, including contact details for two referees
·         a sample of academic writing, around 2000-3000 words
directly to the academic supervisor, Dr James Sumner, at james.sumner@manchester.ac.uk. Informal enquiries about the project are welcome.

Shortlisting will take place in early April, and shortlisted candidates will be asked to attend interview on Tuesday 18 April at MSI in Manchester.