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WRoCAH funded Collaborative Doctoral Award: Student Loneliness: Curating Experiences and Breaking Silences.

University of Sheffield - Department of Geography

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Sheffield
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: WRoCAH CDA studentship covers tuition fees and an annual stipend (£18,622 in 2023/24) for 40 months.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 22nd February 2024
Closes: 6th March 2024

Project summary

This project investigates young peoples’ loneliness through a museum-based participatory study involving undergraduate students. It explores student loneliness through objects, beginning with material collected during the COVID-19 pandemic, and continuing with the collection of new materials, through which participants will explore their own experiences of loneliness, post-pandemic. Participants will be involved in curating, collecting, interpreting and exhibiting artefacts, and using these as catalysts for wider conversations about loneliness. This work builds upon a partnership between cultural geographers at the University of Sheffield and curators of medicine at the Science Museum.

Project description

This project builds upon co-produced research in which students and academic staff at the University of Sheffield worked with curators at the Science Museum (SCM) in 2021, exploring students' experiences of loneliness during the pandemic. Outcomes of this collaboration included acquisition by the SCM of archival material and objects relating to student loneliness during lockdown, and an academic paper describing this project. What is the project about? Young people are susceptible to loneliness but tend to be good at covering it up. Problems of loneliness, with consequences for mental and physical health, are increasingly recognised among older people. This project will contribute new knowledge about the relatively neglected phenomenon of youth loneliness by investigating experiences of students in higher education during and since the COVID-19 pandemic. This project promises methodological and conceptual advances. Through innovative use of material methods, it will examine loneliness as a physical (embodied and material) rather than purely cognitive phenomenon. This work will bring new dimensions to museum practice through innovative community engagement and participatory methods. It will advance the theory and practice of curating and collecting, archiving and preservation, object and collections discovery.

 Research questions

  1. How do students in higher education understand and describe experiences of loneliness?
  2. How can artefacts - (a) SCM holdings in the Collecting COVID-19 scheme; and (b) additional objects, collected by participants - be used to spark memories and stories about loneliness?
  3. How can museums use and improve participatory research methods to interpret and develop their collections and public engagement?
  4. What new dimensions do arts-led, participatory methods involving objects offer the study of intangible subjects such as loneliness?
  5. How can students’ experiences of loneliness be extrapolated to develop broader understandings loneliness among other young people and across society?

Full project details are available on the WRoCAH website.

By 12 noon Wednesday 6 March 2024, applicants are required to submit WRoCAH   Expression of Interest form.

Lead Academic and Partner Organisation Supervisors.

Professor Richard Phillips  Department of Geography University of Sheffield  r.phillips@sheffield.ac.uk

Ms Natasha McEnroe and Ms Selina Hurley Medicine Galleries Science Museum

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