Your stories: Art History Radio Hour

Every Wednesday at 5pm, Geoffrey interviews one of his colleagues about their careers and interests via Teams. He and the interviewee remain on screen and colleagues, both in art history and various members of Oxford's museums and libraries, ask questions using the Chat function. He suggests listeners sip a glass of wine and nibble on cheese cubes while he and his guest chat, to try and replicate the ‘live’ experience of a University talk.

‘Normally, the History of Art programme might have a series of visiting speakers in Trinity Term. To make up for that, and to keep our Master of Studies and DPhil students engaged, while also fostering a sense of community in a period of isolation, I proposed holding a weekly interview with one or other of my colleagues on Teams. I interrogate them

Professor Geoffrey Batchen teaching

Professor Geoffrey Batchen

about their careers and experiences, asking them what motivates their approach to art history and seeking nuggets of wisdom that might benefit our postgrad students. The interviews are relaxed, being a conversation between colleagues, who are often sitting in their gardens or lounge rooms, and that allows the discussion to be more engaging than formal modes of presentation. It also allows for a certain amount of argument, an important tool in an art historian’s armoury.

‘I decided to also interview curators from the Ashmolean, many of whom teach for us from time to time. That has helped to maintain a sense of common purpose across the University. As the series of interviews progressed from week to week, more and more people asked to be added to the invite list. It was never intended to be a University-wide broadcast (I’m not sure that Teams can handle more than a 100 or so listeners) but its audience now includes colleagues from the Sackler Library, two of our retired colleagues, quite a few curators from the Ashmolean, several students residing in London or overseas, and colleagues from the Ruskin and History. Many students have written to me to say how much they have enjoyed the conversations.

‘Interview subjects have included John Blakinger (an American scholar who has been teaching for us for the past two years), An van Camp (who curated the Young Rembrandt exhibition at the Ash), Alastair Wright (Chair of HoA), Clare Pollard (curator of Japanese art), Geraldine Johnson (Renaissance art), and Gervase Rosser (medieval art). The final conversations or this term will be on Wednesday and will feature Amy Mooney (the Terra Foundation visiting scholar).

However, the plan is to revisit this idea in Michaelmas but with an international array of speakers, possibly broadcasting live on YouTube and recording the result for posterity.’