Dead and Buried: Websites, the Wellcome Trust and Reawakenings

V0010453 William Hunter (1718-1783) in his museum in Windmill Street Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org William Hunter (1718-1783) in his museum in Windmill Street on the day of resurrection, surrounded by skeletons and bodies, some of whom are searching for their missing parts. Engraving, 1782. 1782 Published: 8 February 1782 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
V0010453 William Hunter (1718-1783) in his museum in Windmill Street
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
William Hunter (1718-1783) in his museum in Windmill Street on the day of resurrection, surrounded by skeletons and bodies, some of whom are searching for their missing parts. Engraving, 1782.
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons.

There was a time when a two or three week window in between blogs would occasion a perfunctory apology regarding my extended absence from the blogosphere. Given that my last blog was some six months ago, I feel that this may not suffice. So, how to explain….lets start with a tantalising tweet.

Well did you?

For regular readers of this blog the answer is undoubtedly yes. But what does it have to do with the Wellcome Trust? Well here’s where it gets exciting. Late last year I was approached by Dr Sarah Tarlow of Leicester University and asked if I would like to contribute something to their project blog, surrounding their interdisciplinary, Wellcome Trust funded project on the power of the criminal corpse.  Regular readers (if you still exist!) will know that I have been a big fan of this project at Leicester University since very early on in my PhD. It covers everything from the corpses’ role in medical science to its powerful status in folklore throughout the 18th and 19th centuries – all subjects intrinsically linked with my study. Much of the work that has come from it has been both fascinating and essential reading for my PhD.

So, Imagine my surprise and delight when I was asked to contribute to the project. Then double that and add a sprinkling of terror, when I tell you that based on the blog and my (pre PhD) media/digital background, Sarah and the team thought I would be a good person to create an online exhibition for all their work! If I had known three years ago, when I first came across the project, that I would be asked to create the website for it, you could have knocked me down with a feather. But life has a funny way of surprising you and it’s all down to this blog that I was even considered in the first place.

Now, the more eagle eyed readers will note that the Wellcome Trust tweet was in February. Indeed the site has been live for 3 months now and I am very proud of it. Not least for the fact that I managed to get the brilliant web address. www.criminalcorpses.com (who knew that would still be available!). So, if you are a regular reader of this blog or just an interested passerby, go and have a look. There is some fascinating content from the project and thanks to the Wellcome Trust’s extensive image library the site is very visually engaging (not so often the case with academic websites).  There’s everything from post-mortem punishment statistics and interactive timelines on key legislation like the Murder Act 1752 and the Anatomy Act of 1832 through to fascinating case studies on the victims of post mortem punishment. There’s even some original c19th printed ballads accompanied by a rendition, performed by one of the project’s multi-talented members. Now if that doesn’t make up for my absence I don’t know what will.

DISTRACTIONS: LIFE SKILLS. 

I’m often asked by people thinking of doing a PhD if they have any advice and I always say the same thing – you better enjoy your own company. There are many times in the course of a three year study when you find yourself isolated and lacking motivation and I find that having things to distract your mind are essential. Two things that are particularly helpful to me now are woodwork and the piano – both skills learnt whilst studying. In both cases, I have taught myself these skills via the internet. The internet is so often denounced as a scary place populated by trolls and people that have a seemingly unending rage or uncanny ability to turn even the most benign cat video into a slanging match and Nazi name calling sessions (see Godwin’s Law). BUT, it is also an amazingly giving forum – if you look in the right places. One of the many things I have found is that for any skill you want to acquire someone has written instructions or more importantly made a video demonstration. In about a year, I have gone from barely being able to use a saw to now starting to build my own furniture. Similarly, I started the piano after receiving a keyboard this Christmas and have found that HD piano’s free lessons have helped me progress rapidly. So, in the same spirit of sharing here is some of the furniture I’ve made in the last year. Basically, you can teach yourself anything, so go out and do it.

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In future blogs I might be confident enough to even share some of my early piano pieces. As it stands though it turns out that all the songs I love are very complicated for a beginner, so it may be a while before I’ve cracked them. For now, here’s two I’m working on in their original form.  Aphex Twin’s Avril 14th and Thom Yorke’s Ingenue

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