I always think that the beginning of a research project is a strange time, a bit like the first day of a new school year when you are faced with both the thrill of new exercise books full of crisp, white pages that demand your best handwriting as well as the fear of spoiling them with scribbled out mistakes. Planning a project or, in the case of the Gender Place and Memory Research Cluster, multiple projects is simultaneously exciting and frustrating as we grapple with the information we want to find, the questions that we want to answer, and how we might best use the available source material.
As in new exercise books, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made and plans crossed out, but these dead ends and frustrations are the parts of the planning process that push researchers into devising new methodologies, to using existing sources in different ways, and to thinking of creatively about how we might advance our knowledge. This is particularly pertinent to studies of women’s history, where information was frequently misreported or not gathered in the first place, and then has survived only sporadically. So here at the beginning of the first three years of the Gender Place and Memory research cluster academics and PhD research students alike are busy drawing up our research questions and thinking about how we can best tackle them.
One of the biggest strengths of the GPM research cluster is the network of research-active scholars of geography, literature and history based both at the University of Hull and other institutions, archives and museums, who communicate regularly to share the results of ongoing projects and ideas that have emerged from the reading of interdisciplinary journal articles and books. My instinct is to protect my research ideas like children, shielding them from scrutiny until they are properly worked up, tweaked and polished, but sharing ideas with supportive colleagues at the very earliest stages of planning means that flaws are caught early, and the opportunities to incorporate interdisciplinary ideas and perspectives are exploited from the beginning. I am excited to see what the next three years brings, and you can keep up to date with the different projects and activities that are taking place within the GPM research cluster through this blog page.
Dr Jennifer Aston, University of Hull