University of Leicester takes part in Being Human Festival

The University will be organising walking tours telling the story of the history of the University’s Fielding Johnson Building

University to promote public engagement at the UK’s only national festival of the humanities

The University of Leicester will join universities throughout the UK and open its doors to share its innovative humanities research with the public. The Being Human festival, now in its fifth year, will be based on the theme of ‘Origins and Endings’.

As part of a 10-day national programme of big ideas, big debates and engaging activities for all ages, the University aims to champion the excellence of humanities research in the East Midlands, help to demonstrate the vitality and relevance of this today and showcase how the humanities helps us understand ourselves, our relationships with others and the challenges we face in a changing world.

The University is running two events during the Festival.

From House of Care to Seat of Learning

Thursday 15 November, 1.00pm-2.30pm
Friday 16 November, 1.00pm-2.30pm

The University will organise walking tours telling the story of the history of the University’s Fielding Johnson Building, from its original use as a Victorian asylum, through the First World War and then its reinvention as a higher education institution.

The illustrated walking tours will showcase the building’s history, using archival plans and photographs. Visitor’s will also be able to see an interactive exhibition in the University’s new Digital Reading Room, and a pop-up exhibition on the First World War hospital loaned by the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.

Simon Dixon, Head of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Leicester, said: “The Fielding Johnson Building is a Leicester landmark, but few people will know the story of its history. It was built in 1837 as the Leicestershire Lunatic Asylum, and during the First World War was used as a military hospital. Through Elizabeth Blood’s research, and work by our work placement student Andrew Permain from Museum Studies, we are excited to be able to tell the story of the building to new audiences. Visitors to the Being Human events will hear how the building has developed and changed over 180 years, and will have the opportunity to see evidence of its previous uses.”

The Fabric of Memory

Thursday 22 November, 3.00pm-8.00pm

This will be a participatory performance by artist Nir Segal. During the performance, the public will be invited to bring their fabrics to share their stories and memories with performers who will carefully iron or fold these. The fabrics are being ironed and folded to both reflect on how mundane activities can become rituals and to provide a space to discuss the meaning and memories we associate with fabrics.

There will also be two panel discussions with academics from the School of Museum Studies whose research focuses on these ideas alongside artists and a textile conservator.

Dr Nuala Morse, Lecturer in the School of Museum Studies and event organiser said: “We are excited to bring together different researchers from the University of Leicester to talk about our research with artists and the public. The participatory performance provides an important opportunity to collectively talk about how we remember, how our clothes and different materials can contain deeply personal memories, and our everyday rituals of memory and remembrance. The academic talks will present a range of research from the School of Museum Studies linked to this theme and provide opportunities to share this with a wider public”

The Fabric of Memory at the Attenborough Arts Centre is a free drop in event. The public is invited to bring fabrics and materials they want to discuss. 

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