The last few weeks have been quite busy on the Cwm library project, and have involved attending several fascinating conferences and giving papers.
First was the annual Swansea University Arts & Humanities Postgraduate Conference, held in the university's Wallace building on Friday 12 October. The theme of this year's conference was 'Crossing Borders and Pushing Boundaries': a specific, yet surprisingly widely interpreted theme that resulted in a wide variety of fascinating papers that truly demonstrated the breadth of research being undertaken at the several departments that make up the College of Arts & Humanities.
I presented a paper on the Cwm project to date, through the lens of the borders and boundaries theme. This enabled me to reinterpret my research thus far from a wholly new perspective, and to really emphasise the importance of borders in ensuring the survival of the Jesuit community at the Cwm. Proceedings of the conference will hopefully be published in the near future - watch this space!
I was also invited to give an update on the progress of the project to the Herefordshire Catholic History Society at their bi-annual meeting at the beautiful Belmont Abbey on 16 October - a small but very interested group of members were pleased to hear that the project was progressing well, and to hear updated numbers of books discovered, work currently being undertaken on provenance marks as well as the trials and tribulations of trying to piece together the history of this illusive library! Other papers given included an extract from research being undertaken on St Roger Cadwallader, which forms part of a forthcoming, much needed, biography on the saint.
Most recently, I attended a one day conference in London, organised by CELL (the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters) in Queen Mary University, London on 9 November. 'The Permissive Archive' Conference covered a wide variety of interpretations on the ups and downs of archival research, how research on one topic in the archives can often lead to new and unexpected avenues of research, and the various ways in which the archive is 'permissive', either as a result of permissions (or restrictions) from the archivist, different storage methods and of course, struggles with particularly horrible examples of palaeography!
It was a fascinating day, and gave me some new perspectives on the nature of my work in both the library and the archives, and highlighted lots of brilliant new research that is being conducted at the moment up and down the country. Lots more information on the conference website (see link above)
Conferences are always good for the soul - I always come away from a conference feeling refreshed and re-energised towards my research, and (more often than not) with new ideas, a different perspective, and new angles to explore. They are also a great way to engage with other academics, either working in the same field, or working in a totally different one - all researchers sometimes feel isolated and alone, due to the varied nature of the work we do, and it is always good to meet up with other people in the same position as yourself. If nothing else, having to explain your research to somebody with little or no background knowledge of your topic in a concise 'coffee-break' conversation is always challenging, and great practice for getting to grips with the essentials of the project and conveying them!