Introducing…Harriet O’Neill, Assistant Director in the Humanities and Social Sciences

43971306145_a5df6ef660_z.jpgI am absolutely delighted to be at the BSR and also in Rome as both the institution and the city are almost perfectly aligned to my research interests. Before joining the BSR as Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences, I was College and then Exhibitions Curator at Royal Holloway, University of London and I continue my association there as an Honorary Research Associate. Working in a university meant engaging with staff and students from a broad range of academic departments including Modern Languages, Geography and Psychology and fundamentally informed the multidisciplinary approach I have adopted in my own scholarship. Being a curator in a research environment also proved to be a brilliant opportunity to experiment with new approaches to exhibition design and interpretation including the digital skills which help me think about effective ways of sharing and disseminating research. I am thrilled that my new position will allow me to continue with these research interests and work closely with library and archive collections, especially as those at the BSR are so rich.

I am an art historian by training and enjoyed using and developing these skills as the Vivmar Curatorial Assistant at the National Gallery where I co-curated Frames in Focus: The Sansovino Frame and assisted with Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art and Painters’ Paintings, as well as undertaking temporary rehangs and delivering gallery talks. This role immediately followed the collaborative PhD I undertook between UCL and the National Gallery entitled ‘Re-framing the Italian Renaissance at the National Gallery’. As the title suggests my research topic was frames and reframing in the literal and the abstract, a subject I shall continue to work on at the BSR. The natural extension of this appears to be hybrid objects and how they operate in space. I also have an interest in scenography and art history and the digital humanities and shall be feeding this into forthcoming events.

Highlights over the last two months include helping to deliver the October Being Human workshop, meeting the new award-holders and travelling to conferences in Venice and Helsinki. I have delivered two conference papers, the first in the UK and the second in Copenhagen, both focusing on art and the sacred environment. But really it is about being in an intellectually stimulating environment with supportive and social colleagues. I have gained so much from rethinking the BSR’s research themes with my fellow Assistant Directors, being supported by Stephen [Milner, BSR Director] with my research plans and thinking about culture as a diplomatic tool. I am also looking forward to developing PhD opportunities and perhaps a CDA project of the type that I benefitted from.


Harriet O’Neill (Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences)

Portrait photo by Antonio Palmieri.