Meet the Research Grant Winners: Caroline Ardrey

29 March 2017 Comment

In this mini interview series you will hear directly from the winners of the Europeana Research Grant. Learn more about who they are, what they do, and find out how important cultural heritage material is to their work.

Introducing Caroline Ardrey, who is analysing spoken performances of nineteenth-century French poetry through her project Visualising Voice.

Tell us about yourself...

I’m a post-doctoral researcher, working as Research Associate on The Baudelaire Song Project, an AHRC-funded project, based at The University of Birmingham. My research interests lie in exploring and examining the cross-over between nineteenth-century French poetry and other art forms, with a particular emphasis on music, fashion and journalism.

I am passionate about finding connections between texts and people. I love delving into personal and professional relationships, looking at how writers, composers, journalists and other cultural figures influenced each other, and examining how engagement with poetry has shaped reception histories. Working with the digital humanities, I particularly enjoy testing out different technologies for plotting these relationships in visually dynamic and interactive ways.

What made you apply for the Europeana Research Grant? What did you know about Europeana before you applied?

I knew from past research that there were plenty of spoken word recordings of poems within Europeana Collections, so when I discovered that Europeana were offering research grants to use their materials, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to pursue the task of analysing spoken performance of poetry, and so the Visualising Voice project was born.
At the heart of Visualising Voice is the desire to make use of resources within the Europeana Collections and to encourage others to do the same. The project aims to raise public awareness of the importance of voice and vocal performance in shaping our understanding of poetry.

My Europeana-funded project is all about highlighting the fact that cultural heritage resources and digital humanities tools aren’t about us and them, that exploring the findings of research doesn’t always need to be mediated by the voice of the academic - anyone can try their hand at engaging directly with the resources in Europeana Collections, because they’re publicly available. It was essential to me to make Visualising Voice a “democratic” project, which didn’t just show a non-academic audience what people are doing in universities, libraries and cultural heritage institutions, but rather that it gave them a chance to have a go at carrying out digital archival research for themselves.

How has Europeana supported your research?

With the generous funding that the Europeana research grant has provided, I have been able to undertake a project which aims to change the way people understand poetry. More importantly,I hope to make some contribution to promoting public engagement with archival materials - in this case the Europeana Sounds archives. I am sure that, discovering a small corner of the Europeana Collection can lead to bigger things, so the first task is to hook people in. Without Europeana, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue the idea of working with a developer (a non-academic) to tease out key features of spoken word recordings in a way that is accessible to non-specialists.

Finding a way in is key, and it is through that first engagement with digital archival material that the resources within the Europeana Collections came to be a fundamental driver in my research. Although I have only recently become acquainted with Europeana as a platform, the archival material made available to me through resources like Gallica has answered many questions, and opened up many more, about chains of influence in nineteenth-century literature, music and culture.

How essential is access to cultural heritage data for your research?

Access to cultural heritage data is fundamental to my research. A lot of the discoveries I’ve made and the networks I’ve been able to plot have come about by chance findings from searching library databases, digital archives and other databases. In this way, working with cultural heritage data is not only important to carrying out research, but it’s also central to motivating me as a researcher and helping me develop plans for future projects.