Archive | January, 2013

Running before I can walk

30 Jan

It’s been a week of ups and downs really, and it can be summed up pretty well by the phrase ‘running before you can walk!’ I’ve started to look at some of Maurice’s diaries as I’m itching to get into my primary research, and it’s been great fun so far! However, I met my supervisor last week and she says I need to stay focused on finishing my Lit Review, to be followed by a method section. I really shouldn’t be getting ahead of myself and trying to research without having established my method. I need to know exactly how I’m going to read the diaries, and what information I’m going to take from them, or I’ll only end up doing the work twice. I’m just a bit disheartened because I want to read the ‘fun’ stuff and not current literature for my review. But at least I’ve had a little preview of just how good things are going to get!

I’ve been on a few skills development days over the last week and finding them quite useful. In ‘Managing your research project’ I filled in a timetable of exactly how I fill my week. Other students shared theirs for comparison and it was interesting to see the mix of those who have no other commitments and treat the PhD as a Monday-Friday 9-5, and those like me who’s timetable is all higgly-piggly around my part time work. I felt jealous at first, but actually I think I quite like mixing up my week. These courses are the only times I really meet other students, and I have to remind myself not to compare my progress and working style with theirs as we are all working on different projects that need different things from us. There’s no point me panicking that I’m behind, when actually I might just be doing different things in different ways.

I recently read the ‘Vitae’ guide for being a balanced researcher and have been trying out a few tips from that to help my motivation. It suggested not reading emails until later in the day, which helps me as I always open them first thing and then get distracted for hours sorting them out. Now I get a good spell done first thing. I also liked the tips about just taking time out every now and then to completely forget about the research. I find that if I try and have a weekend off then I wonder if I should still be taking some books with me, and then I feel guilty if I dont get onto them. So I had a nice weekend home with my family in Somerset last weekend catching up on my main PhD distraction of Wedding planning. I’m looking forward to that being over with in August and then I wont be tempted to google wedding bits anymore when I should be working!

Yesterday I went to ‘Writing for publication’, which was perhaps a bit premature as I have nothing lined up yet for publication, but I am hoping I might be able to get an article out this year. I might try and go back to an essay I wrote in my Masters that did well, or maybe try a case study of an object from the Egerton Collection (the Rhino is looking like a good bet for this!)

Well, I have a long month or two ahead of Lit Review, which may get me down, so sorry if the posts get a bit gloomy from here.



Company and children in Africa

20 Jan

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been struck by the sense of community in Maurice’s diaries. This week, I’ve been reading more diary entries and highlighting the names mentioned so that I might be able to work out who these people were and what relationships they had with Maurice.

Most touching is when Maurice stays with families and mentions his relationships with the children in the households. Maurice was a bachelor and never had a family of his own, which has led people to imagine that he was a bit of a loner, or awkward and unsuccessful at forming relationships. However, I really dont think this was the case.

Little of Maurice’s diaries is given over to describing his own opinions and likes and dislikes. They are largely factual accounts of places visited, people met and objects acquired for his collections. Therefore, when stories of everyday life are included, they instantly strike me as poignant and sentimental, even though they still betray little emotion from Maurice! To me, they are rare glimpses into the real man behind the regimented facade.

Here are a few of the stories that have made me smile:

April 2nd, 1923 Maurice stayed with Mr Aubert at Mace-Quece, Zimbabwe. He found his two children “Dede still in bed recovering from a bad attack of gastric fever, but Giles, though also recovering from an ordinary dose of fever, full of beans as usual”. On April 21, Maurice bought a monarch 24” frame bicycle for Dede for £14.10.

On April 23, Maurice stayed with W Bailey in Pretoria, South Africa. He described the atmosphere of the house changing as all the boys came back from school at 3.20pm. “Louis was about 18, Wellesley 15, Terence born April 24 1910 and Dermot about 11. In the afternoon Wellesley fell off his bicycle and returned with a doctor in a car with slight concussion”.

April 24: “Met Terrence and Dermot at their school and took them to lunch, then shopping being Terrence’s Birthday -13”

April 27: “Picked up Terence at his school, in the evening to a boy scout show”

April 28: “in the afternoon we motored to the sunnyside school to see Dermot play soccer in a ‘cub’ match”

Maurice has a lodger over New Year: December 29 “Jack having been ill at school, Mrs Arthur Trench (his Aunt) would not take him in with her kids, so I kept him with me”.

January 3rd 1924: “Maxwell Trench called for Jack at 7am this morning and took him off home. Very sorry to lose him, a delightful little companion”.

If we can judge Maurice’s main preoccupations based on the content of his diaries, then the schooling and welfare of children, particularly boys, is often present in his thoughts, after the priorities of land management and game hunting.

A camping safari in 1923

13 Jan

This week I’ve started to read some extracts from Maurice’s diaries. I’m hoping to spread the load and get through a small section each week whilst continuing with my secondary reading. This way I can break up all the dull library reading with exciting trips back in time with Maurice.

What I’ve seen from the first little segment I’ve read is that Maurice wasn’t the isolated, single figure I’d imagined him to be. In the early 1920’s at least he was part of a thriving network of British settlers in Kenya and motored about (somewhat unsuccessfully- lots of his diaries are descriptions of his car troubles) with them discussing agriculture and hunting.

I’ve always known that Maurice was an organised list-maker, and thought I’d share one with you. So, these are his supplies for a two day safari trip for two men in 1923:

-tin opener

-bread 4lbs

-butter 2lbs

-lard 1lbs


-marmalade 1lb

-jam 1lb

-dried apricots 2lbs

-tea 1 tin

-sugar 3lbs

-salt for skins 10lbs


-pepper 1 tin


-quaker oats 1 tin

-potatoes 10lbs

-onions 5lbs

-bacon 3lbs

-eggs 1 dozen

-rice 2lbs

-matches 1 packet

-kibaba (Swahili container)

-posho (Swahili dish of maize flour)

-tent, water

-dish, pan

-dish cloths


-pangos (not sure what this is yet, Swahili dictionaries say cave, den, hole)

-2 lamps

-2 bottles of paraffin

-sufurias (Swahili cooking pot)

-frying pan

-6 plates

-1 teapot

-1 kettle

-3 cups and saucers

-6 knives, forks, spoons

-(tea and dessert spoons)




-toilet paper

-guns and cartridges

-beds and blankets


-soap and towels

-table and chairs


-whiskey, vermouth, gin


-condensed milk


No wonder it took 11 porters to carry that lot!

Wonderful Collections

6 Jan

I am really grateful to those who have contacted me via this blog or by facebook to let me know about their own research or to give me ideas. It’s made me think more about the other research projects already out there or in progress that deal with the stories of collections.

Today I’ve read through a few past PhDs. Christopher Jordan’s work about Ernest Marsh has a fabulous literature review chapter, if I can mine to sound half as intelligent as that then I will be very happy! He writes that we shouldn’t overthink what factors make a collector, and that it can come down to the simple fact that it brings pleasure. It’s quite a refreshing thought when I’ve been getting myself bogged down in the implications of social background and the psychology of what makes objects appealing. I also think that I can make progress where he says that we can never really know a collector and what he was thinking at the time of acquisition, and that any study is doomed to capture just one moment in the history of a collection. I’m lucky that I have so much source material documenting the collecting process and giving me that elusive insight into what the collector was thinking. Also, the whole point of the object biography is that it accepts objects are never static and it documents changes in status over time.

I also had a look at Lucie Carreau’s PhD about the Beasley collection; similar sorts of material collected at a similar time to the Egerton collection. It looks as though we have similar aims in mind, to bring a marginal figure to academic attention and to look at the peculiarities of private collections.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to go over a thesis I read during my MA by Emma Poulter, who I know used the biography structure more specifically in her reading of the African Collection at Manchester Museum. I did a work placement with this collection, and working with the objects and reading her work really made me think I would like to do something similar.

It’s great that all these collections have their advocates out there, and I’m hopeful that my PhD will join these interesting accounts in the future.