The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities
TORCH was launched in May 2013 as a rallying point for all disciplines across the Humanities in Oxford, and since then has raised £1.2m in grants and philanthropy to develop research. Based in the Radcliffe Humanities Building (the site of the former Radcliffe Infirmary), the centre’s primary role is to facilitate and stimulate interdisciplinary projects led by Oxford scholars at various stages of their career, to encourage networks within the humanities in Oxford, and as a contact for scholarly involvement in public engagement initiatives with the collaboration of university institutions such as the Bodleian Libraries and Ashmolean Museum.
‘TORCH’ encompasses a small team and all the academics who work under the centre’s umbrella. The centre’s core values include high quality, interdisciplinary collaboration, intellectual daring, and the nurturing of projects that foster long-term public impact and knowledge exchange, and greater interaction between Oxford and the world outside academia. TORCH is currently led by Professor Elleke Boehmer who welcomes ideas for public engagement activities. The TORCH team Tweet news of Oxford events and wider developments in the Humanities at Oxford @TORCHOxford. You can also follow the Humanities Division @OxHumanities and the university @UniofOxford.
Oxford Centre for Life-Writing
That we have been able to launch a student-led network is thanks to the commitment to ensuring that postgraduates and early career scholars gain experience leading research projects which marks the collaboration between TORCH and the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW), which jointly run an annual Postgraduate Conference Competition of which our conference Speaking in Absence: Letters in the Digital Age was the winning proposal.
OCLW is a ‘research cluster’, that is, a network of scholars working on materials including (but not limited to) biography and autobiography, memoir, interviews, journals, letters and correspondence, auto/biographical form, methodology, criticism and history, and on thematic and methodological relationships between life-writing and the digital age. Life-writing is relevant to the arts, sciences, and diverse professional disciplines. The centre is proudly based at Wolfson College, which has a strong record for interdisciplinary research.
OCLW’s President is Professor Dame Hermione Lee and its Associate Director is Professor Elleke Boehmer. The centre’s current Research Fellow is Dr Kate Kennedy. For more information about the centre and life-writing, check out the OCLW website and blog or follow the centre on Twitter @OxLifeWriting.
The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford is the largest university library system in the United Kingdom. It includes the principal University library – the Bodleian Library – which has been a legal deposit library for 400 years; as well as 30 libraries across Oxford including major research libraries and faculty, department and institute libraries. Together, the Libraries hold more than 12 million printed items, over 80,000 e-journals and outstanding special collections including rare books and manuscripts, classical papyri, maps, music, art and printed ephemera. Members of the public can explore the collections via the Bodleian’s online image portal at digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk or by visiting the exhibition galleries in the Bodleian’s Weston Library. For more information, visit www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk.
Libraries play a vital role in cultural memory and engagement. Every year the Old Schools Quadrangle hosts the Globe Shakespeare on tour, and the new Weston Library has provided a dazzling venue for events such as the celebration of the libraries’ twelfth millionth acquisition, a copy of an early poem by Percy Shelley, previously thought lost. The libraries have a long history of exhibiting collections, the first item displayed being the ornate Benefactors’ Register. The original library, now known as the ‘Old Bodleian’, was founded by Sir Thomas Bodley (1545-1613) and opened in 1602 with ‘Duke Humphrey’s Library’ as the principal reading room, while the present Upper Reading Room used to house the library’s impressive picture collection. In 2013, thanks to the support of the Polonsky Foundation, Bodleian Libraries joined forces with the Vatican Library in a landmark digitisation project.
Balliol Interdisciplinary Institute
Balliol Interdisciplinary Institute was founded in 2010 to enable Balliol members (including postgraduates) to drive pioneering interdisciplinary projects which connect arts and sciences. The research committee selects projects based on potential impact and innovative design and structure. As a college-based organisation that supports postgraduates’ gestational projects of such great range and versatility, the institute is unique. The institution of the college is a hallmark of Oxford that we are delighted to include as an aspect of our network.
Balliol College was founded in 1263 by John I de Balliol and his widow, Dervorguilla of Galloway. It has nurtured 12 Nobel laureates (5 students, 7 fellows) and 3 Prime Ministers. Its diverse alumni include Gerald Manley Hopkins, Aldous Huxley, Boris Johnson, Richard Dawkins, Yvette Cooper, Cressida Dick, Christopher Ricks, and Oxford’s current Chancellor, Lord Patten; and in fiction, the villainous Captain Hook and the detective Lord Peter Wimsey. The college’s thriving present-day community of 450 postgraduates is based at Holywell Manor, adjacent to St. Cross Church which houses the college’s impressive Special Collections. The college also has a long association with the Bodleian Libraries: a statute holds that the position of Bodley’s Librarian (currently Richard Ovenden) entails a Professorial Fellowship at Balliol.