We need to talk about ... enthusiasm

Seeing things differently, working with Kevin, sharing enthusiasm

Part of the work linked to this app, has been a re-engagement with archival collections: working out how the stories of a person life buried in these places can be released, giving the reader a stake in the biographical telling. The stories that I really enjoy telling about Mary Curzon’s life are when the fragments of her life come into dialogue with each other: dresses, events, picture postcards, adverts, coins, diaries, images and letters. Over the years I have quietly visited many different collections, starting in 1996 at the British Library Oriental and India Office overlooking The Cut, Waterloo, before it moved to its more splendid home at the St Pancras British Library. In these encounters I have collected fragments of Mary's life, that when combined together prompt different imaginaries of Mary Curzon and of her life across India, Europe and America. 

As a researcher supporting the building of the app, Kevin has been returning to these archives, ordering materials for the app, and making me think about familiar things, differently. My work with Kevin has been a critical part of my process of working through who this app is for. Kevin is a gentle and perceptive critic, a great editor and an excellent researcher. His work before his own doctoral research has given him a key perspective into working with, and writing for, public audiences. Time spent in the archives together  - particularly the British Library Asia and Africa Reading Room picture collection – has opened up the enormity of the challenge of enabling my enthusiasm for the minutiae of Mary Curzon’s life, to become as important to those who encounter her, particularly when that someone will have multiple ways in which they could be spending their time. My story telling only really works because I'm curious about what the minutae of a life prompts us to question. Bothering with a postcard of Mary that someone in Derby sent to their friend is what makes my stories unique. Working out how to share enthusiasm has been at the heart of this prototype.