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Institute for Cultural Practices

Dr Rob McCombe

Working title: Gold Under Gravel, Gold Under Glass: Anglo-Saxon objects through excavation, collection and display.

My research explores the presentation of Anglo-Saxon material in English museums, from its initial 'rediscovery' by antiquarians to use in modern exhibitions. It seeks to challenge the notion that objects become inert once in the museum. Current literature reflects the wide interest in Anglo-Saxon archaeology and history, yet the representation of this period in museums is little explored. Concepts such as the 'Dark Ages' and associated ideas about race have been challenged, while museum classification and the physical display of this period has gone largely unexamined.

The work being undertaken analyses the role of Anglo-Saxon material culture in the production of identities and the invention of tradition. Through the use of object biography my work investigates the use and interpretation of Anglo-Saxon artefacts in the museum and their links to wider social, cultural and intellectual trends. Theories of national and local identity, class and collecting, use of human remains and the investigation of museum display will underpin analysis of the relationship between Anglo-Saxon exhibits and the museum. Central to my research are objects from the Faussett collection (Liverpool), the relics of St Cuthbert (Durham) and the Bateman collection (Sheffield).

Biography

I am currently a second year student at Manchester University (as of 2009) supervised by Dr Samuel Alberti (Centre for Museology) and Dr Siân Jones (Department of Archaeology). Prior to this I completed a BA in History at Lancaster and an MA in Medieval History at Durham, during which I developed my interest in Anglo-Saxon history. Following this I studied the Art Galleries and Museum Studies MA at Manchester 2006-7. Through this I discovered an interest in museum history and object identity, leading to my current research.