2 December 2015
Each year, the Bodleian Libraries' Visiting Fellows Programme gives academics from outside Oxford the opportunity to come to the Bodleian to conduct research using the Libraries' outstanding special collections.
In 2015-16, the Bodleian will welcome its largest ever cohort of Visiting Fellows. Nineteen scholars from eight countries will come to the Libraries to conduct research on a diverse array of topics, including British perspectives on Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rebellion, early uses of radio broadcasting for commercial purposes and why medieval readers rubbed and kissed their illuminated manuscripts.
Since the programme was launched in 2010, the number of Fellowships offered has grown significantly thanks to the generosity of donors. The Visiting Fellows Programme offers funds that allow scholars to undertake an uninterrupted period of research using the Bodleian’s special collections. Some of the Fellowships are subject-specific, for scholars researching Persian manuscripts, the history of science and communications, early modern history and music, and three Fellowships are offered in collaboration with learned societies.
In addition, the Bodleian now offers Fellows a dedicated space at the heart of the refurbished Weston Library. The new Visiting Scholars’ Centre contains study rooms and communal space, and is ideally placed for Fellows to use collections and consult with academics and expert curatorial staff. It’s also a hub for interdisciplinary research where Visiting Fellows can collaborate with longer-term members of the Bodleian’s research community, including affiliated scholars and the conservation research programme.
‘We’re delighted to welcome this stellar group of Visiting Fellows and are grateful to the donors who have made these Fellowships possible,’ said Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian. ‘Visiting Fellows join a vibrant research community based in our new Weston Library and play an important role in discovering and sharing new knowledge about our special collections.’
The Bodleian’s special collections are a treasure trove for discovery, containing rare printed books, classical papyri, medieval and renaissance manuscripts, literary, political and historical papers, archives, printed ephemera and maps and music. With such vast holdings, there’s always more to discover. ‘Visiting scholars help unlock new levels of detail about where items came from, why they were created and who used them,’ said Alexandra Franklin, who manages the Visiting Fellows Programme and is Coordinator of the Bodleian's Centre for the Study of the Book.
This year, for example, Nasrin Askari, a Visiting Fellow from the University of British Columbia, is studying a magnificently illustrated sixteenth-century collection of folktales about love and adventure called the Kitāb-i Dāstān. The text of this Persian manuscript does not seem to have ever been fully published before. Askari is the first modern researcher to look intensively at the text of this Persian language manuscript. She aims to discover who commissioned it and why, addressing wider questions about folktales that were used by members of the elite.
In addition to conducting their own research, Fellows contribute to intellectual exchanges within the Bodleian Libraries and the wider University by delivering seminars, curating displays and giving public talks and workshops. The Bodleian's current display, In Pursuit of Beauty, for example, was curated by one of last year’s Visiting Fellows. Jessica P Clark, came from Brock University in Canada to spend Trinity Term 2015 at the Bodleian researching the history of the Victorian beauty industry. Clark’s research trip was made possible thanks to a special Fellowship supported by the Royal Bank of Canada which funds two Fellowships each year for scholars from Canada. Stuart Barnard, from the University of Calgary, spent Hilary Term 2015 at the Bodleian where he consulted the papers of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in order to research missionary networks and Bible distribution in Canada in the 1800s.
The Bodleian Libraries is now accepting applications for Visiting Fellowships for the 2016-17 academic year. The closing date for applications is 9am, Monday, 14 December 2015. Find more information about the Visiting Fellows Programme, including application details, on the Centre for the Study of the Book website.