Rebecca is researching The Daily Herald Picture Library.
Rebecca Smith was employed by the National Media Museum when she heard about her AHRC CDP, ‘The Daily Herald: Popular desires and managing the production of photographs’, which she is working towards at the National Media Museum and DeMontford University.
How did you hear about the AHRC CDP scheme?
I was employed at the National Media Museum, and heard about it from one of the curators, as he was reading proposals for a previous year’s interviews. I was overcome with envy at the amazing possibility of researching in the collection full time. I think I said ‘I’d rip my arm off to do that’. Thankfully, they didn’t take me up on that.
What attracted you to doing your PhD as part of the scheme?
I think I would only want to do a PhD in this way because the primary focus, on the collection and on the objects, is key to me. I suspect it differs from the more traditional route in that it gives you a circumscribed body of material to work with, and you are getting input and expertise from professionals who are not necessarily academics.
What is your PhD about?
I’m researching the Daily Herald Picture Library. It’s a press photo archive of about 2.5 million photographs taken by staff photographers or picture agencies between 1930 and 1970. In particular, I’m looking at the day to day processes that went into making, commissioning, editing and storing these news photographs. It’s the bureaucracy of getting pictures in the paper.
What aspect of your research do you find most exciting?
I am perpetually fascinated by the photographs, though I spend as much (if not more) time looking at the stamps and marks and pasted information on the backs, and at their archival arrangement, as looking at the visual content on the front. I’ve been fortunate to begin interviews with ex-photographers and a picture order accutane online cheap editor and the most surprising thing so far have been some of the things they’ve mentioned in passing. It has opened my eyes to the network of people, roles and specialisms that went into this. It’s also been great to re-find images they took that are still in the collection, and be able to discuss them. I never knew the newspaper sent a photographer to Paris in 1968 to photograph the student uprising, and here I was able to talk to him about his edited prints and the trouble he has getting them back from Paris to London!
What other activities have you been involved in?
Six weeks into my research I gave a staff briefing and a paper at research symposium at the National Media Museum. In June I gave a paper at the ‘Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Material Culture’ conference at the University of Kent. In September I presented a discussion piece on visual histories to academic staff in an East Midlands History hub, and October sees a ten-minute overview of my research (without PowerPoint! in a pub!) at PubhD Leicester. Looking at wider output, mentalhealthupdate.com, I am keen to see the oral histories made more widely available for research beyond my immediate concerns, so I am exploring options for their storage and continued use in the future.
What are you hoping to do next?
Being a bit older, I’ve already got a couple of careers (in Community Education and Museums) under my belt. To be honest, I haven’t planned my next step. I just want to focus on doing this to the best of my ability, and enjoy it. It’s an amazing opportunity.