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York academics awarded prestigious research grants

Posted on 22 September 2014

Three academics from the University of York have secured funding totalling more than £3 million from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for two major research projects.

There will be a £1.5 million grant for research and performances regarding Jewish cultural archives and £1.6 million for funding research into assembling alternative futures for heritage.

Dr Lisa Peschel, a Lecturer in York’s Department of Film, Theatre and Television, and Dr Nick Barraclough, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, are co-investigators on the project ‘Performing the Jewish Archive’. It aims to bring recently rediscovered 20th century musical, theatrical and literary works back to the attention of scholars and the public.

Led by Dr Steve Muir, Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Leeds, the project will generate academic publications, educational projects with school and university students, an interactive online archive, an interdisciplinary symposium at the British Library and a collaboration with the National Archives. Performances at five international cultural festivals will occur at historic sites such as Clifford’s Tower in York, featuring internationally renowned performers such as the Nash Ensemble. Following this, Peschel and Barraclough will also supervise a PhD student to measure the impact of public performances through novel methods of audience response testing.

Dr Peschel will lead on the strategic development of public performances and curate a performance festival in the Czech Republic in 2016. She will also co-ordinate with archivists at the British Library to produce their ‘Archives into the Future’ series and continue her research and restaging of theatrical performances in the World War II Jewish ghetto at Terezín/Theresienstadt. She said: “Many of our artists' careers were cut short and their creations were thought lost due to exile, emigration and the Holocaust. We are delighted to be able to bring their works out of the archives and back into the world of the living."

Professor Sharon Macdonald, Anniversary Professor of Cultural Anthropology in York’s Department of Sociology, will be part of the ‘Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage’ team. Led by Dr Rodney Harrison, of the Department of Archaeology at University College London, she will look at the principles and values by which things become available as potential ‘heritage’ for the future. Her research will also aim to establish how items are decided upon and preserved, especially in light of social and environmental challenges.

A wide range of local, national and international partners will be involved in the project, including York Museums Trust. An exhibition of findings will also take place at York’s New School House Gallery, where visitors will be invited to share their own ways of curating their heritage. Professor Macdonald said: “In an age of profusion, with a superfluity of material culture that has led to an expansion of home-storage and de-cluttering services and to museums struggling with soaring storage costs, the question of heritage is a pressing one.  

“I am really excited about this project as it tackles a fundamental sociological question of how people make futures, as well as crucial practical problems facing individuals and museums. Along with our partners in York and elsewhere, this will let us rethink what is meant by ‘heritage’, how it is made and cared for, and how that might be done in the future”.

Both grants have been awarded under the AHRC’s ‘Care for the Future: Thinking Forward Through the Past’ theme. The theme aims to generate new understandings of the relationship between the past and the future, and the challenges and opportunities of the present.

Further information:

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.  Find out more at:
  • To find out more about the AHRC’s ‘Care for the Future theme’, visit:
  • For more information about the University of York’s Department of Film, Theatre and Television, visit:
  • For further information about the University of York’s Department of Sociology, visit:
  • For more information on the University of York’s Department of Psychology, visit:

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