George Bernard Shaw; Artefacts and the construction of identity at Shaw's Corner, Hertfordshire

Project: Research

Project Details


The proposed research studentship project involves collaboration between Shaw’s Corner - a historic house collection donated to the National Trust by George Bernard Shaw - and the University of Hertfordshire School of Creative Arts. The current research interests of the National Trust and of Shaw’s Corner are focused on improving the quality and content of information provision to visitors, about the connections between Shaw’s ideas and writings and the collection of artefacts. The NT is concerned to promote public interest in Shaw’s work by engaging visitors visually with his life and interests, as well as by staging outdoor performances of his plays in the grounds. The house, occupied by Shaw from 1906 until his death in 1950, contains Shaw’s personal library, memorabilia, clothing, original furniture/fittings, photographic collection, and a collection of works of art relating not only to the tastes of Shaw and his wife Charlotte, but also to his connection with contemporary cultural and artistic ideas and debates. The display stimulates a plethora of questions from visitors that very often cannot be satisfactorily answered because no extensive scholarly research on the collection exists. An existing collaborative doctoral project between UH and Shaw’s Corner (2010-13) set out to address this lack, and has already made significant contributions to knowledge for the NT and the academic community, however, it has also underlined that the richness and variety of the collection provides enormous scope for other research projects. The proposed new project intends to build on the gains of the existing project, by studying different artefacts from a different angle.

The main research question is: ‘How may the chosen artefacts be seen to construct elements of Shaw’s identity?’ The overall aim is to produce a body of research that will contextualise aspects of the Shaw’s Corner collection of artefacts not only as historical and aesthetic objects in themselves, but also, in relation to their display within Shaw’s Corner, as contributory factors to a deeper understanding of Shaw’s location and identity within British culture as playwright, writer and personality.

The project objectives are to:
enable the staff and volunteers at Shaw’s Corner to enhance the visitors’ experience of the collection and their understanding of Shaw’s complex personality and interests;
enable the student to make an unique contribution to the creation of new knowledge both in relation to Shaw and to the chosen artefacts, through the publication of their PhD research;
provide the student with valuable employability skills, experience and knowledge within the sphere of museums and historic houses, in addition to the academic and transferable skills development offered by the University;
enable the academic supervisors to gain greater understanding of the needs and operations of Shaw’s Corner and the National Trust.

In the non-academic sphere, it is expected that the research will enhance the training of the staff and the knowledge of the House Manager at Shaw’s Corner, thus the research will be of benefit both to the visitors to the house and to the National Trust. It is also expected that the research may have significant impact on aspects of the design and content of an information centre, which is planned to be installed in an outbuilding in the next 3-5 years. At an academic level, it is expected that the research will be of potential benefit to researchers in the field of literature and particularly Shaw studies, social history of art/design, including histories of British visual and material culture.
Effective start/end date1/10/1030/09/13


  • UKRI - Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): £51,540.00


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