Between 2007 and 2009 I was the Research Officer for the Sussex Recording Project, a collaborative Heritage Lottery funded initiative between the University of Brighton and the, London based, Public Monuments and Sculpture Association. The project undertook to conduct a survey of the diverse range of monuments and sculpture in the cities, towns and villages of Sussex.
The survey includes, from all periods, conventional statues, monumental works, selected war memorials, architectural sculpture, art sculpture, memorial clocks, towers and fountains. These include those works that have ‘disappeared’. Detailed descriptive data is recorded as well as the objects’ general history, including that of inauguration events / unveiling ceremonies etc. A rich image archive was also created.
The results of the survey can be found at: www.publicsculpturesofsussex.co.uk
Following completion of the project I took up the post of Administrator for the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association in London until I successfully applied for a full time AHRC Studentship Award in 2010. The subject matter of my PhD is rooted in this experience of scholarly engagement with the production and consumption of public monuments.
I am now a freelance researcher and lecturer and also work for The Public Catalogue Foundation as the Sculpture Collections Researcher for the 'Your Sculpture' project.
"It was the heart of the town": two public monuments, cultural memory, and oral histories in Walkden and Hastings
The importance of the historic built environment to local communities and its ability to foster a sense of place is an issue at the heart of current heritage impact research. This thesis is primarily concerned with how public monuments, as a focus for the localisation of memories and narratives, can contribute to the development of social capital; sense of place; and a sense of community identity.
As case studies, the research study uses two large public monuments significant to the cultural heritage and development of two towns; the Countess of Ellesmere Memorial, Walkden, Greater Manchester; and the Prince Albert Memorial Clock Tower, Hastings, East Sussex. The two monuments were erected on particular sites significant to the history of the towns; sites chosen for their resonance with the development and growth of the local communities. The location of both monuments has been the cause of much controversy and public debate for over a century and their position as objects of local heritage is perhaps as important now as when they were unveiled.
As its primary source of data, the research study uses oral history interviews in order to analyse how the two monuments are remembered and experienced through accounts of public ceremonials, festivities, and rituals; through specific social norms that have originated in local culture and tradition; and, through the routine activities of everyday life. The analysis of the oral history interviews demonstrates how, through the shaping of kinship and personal narratives, these two public monuments provided a spatial and temporal location for the development of public memory and, an associated development of social capital and sense of place. The commonalities within the narratives evidence both how public monuments can situate people, through memory and association, within their local community, and, how communities can be impacted by their destruction or relocation. In demonstrating how the two monuments functioned, and still function, in the public and private lives of the interviewees, the research findings contribute empirical evidence to debates around rhetoric, memory, place, and demonstrate important, but often neglected, considerations for heritage management and policy making