PG Residential Reading Weekend at the Burn, 17-19 February 2023

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Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History

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PG Residential Reading Weekend at the Burn, 17-19 February 2023

A team of University of Aberdeen faculty members and postgraduate students from History and other disciplines of the School of Divinity, History, Philosophy, and Art History (DHPA) participated in an enriching scholarly retreat at The Burn over a weekend in February.

Retreat coordinator Jackson Armstrong kicked off the weekend Friday evening and introduced David Turner, Bursar of The Burn. David delivered a fascinating presentation on The Burn’s history. The estate staff were equally warm and welcoming! Over the course of the weekend they prepared delicious meals for our group of about thirty. We can boast quite the international crowd! Participants came from the UK, Europe and North America, including those who study on campus, and those from the fully online Scottish Heritage MLitt programme, and a number of distance PhD students. This opportunity to meet with each other and our instructors in person was invaluable. We were also fortunate to be joined by Beth Lord, Head of the School of DHPA.

The programme was informative and enriching. On Friday evening, Heidi Mehrkens and Karin Friedrich led a presentation on Making the Transition: UG to PGT, PGT to PGR; followed by Robert Frost who provided Pointers for Working in Archives.

Many papers were presented on Saturday: Árpád Kuffler, The Melisende Psalter: Crusader art?; and PaweĊ‚ Grabowski, Polish-Burgundian Diplomatic Contacts, 1363-1477. In the afternoon we heard from Laura Mair, Bradford Bow, and Anne Caldwell on How to navigate postdoc life and applications. This was followed by Ben Whitlock and Andrew Dilley’s session Preparing for the viva; Jaroslaw Pietrzak’s Polish-Scottish Contacts in the Early Modern Period. Alanna MacTavish Khalil presented Why Jacobite Studies Still Matter; Caitlin Yool, Curse Tablets & Binding Spells in Ancient Greece; and Jakub Ivanecky, The PATH Project: Minority History in Aberdeen.

Sessions on Sunday included Caitlin Yool, On the Journal Granite: joining the team and getting published; Genevieve Strong, Neo Victorian Art: Contemporary Art as Adaptation; and Bradley McKinnon, The Early Religious Life of Helen Keller.

In our free time several of us enjoyed the idyllic scenery, walks on the property along the river, and of course the friendly estate donkeys. There were plenty of opportunities for socialising during mealtimes and in the evenings too. Those who played their own guitars and flutes or the house piano provided a most welcome musical backdrop. On Saturday night Jackson and Heidi led us in playing the Renaissance Marriage Game which kept us on our toes and was a catalyst for some fun networking!

Overall, our time was well spent, and we were enriched by the experience. Perhaps most importantly, each of us had opportunities to discuss our chosen topics and germinate ideas with colleagues and faculty. Only during meaningful moments such as these – enabled by being in the presence of one another – are we truly able to deliberate and gain valuable perspectives on our works-in-progress.

When informally polled about their intent to participate in The Burn retreat next year, several students responded with a resounding “yes!” Clearly this gathering was informative, enjoyable and rewarding for students and faculty alike. We’re already looking forward to the next one!

Report written by Donna Betts and Alanna MacTavish Khalil

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