The AHRC Innovation Placement Scheme encourages recent PhD graduates to use their existing research skills in a mutually beneficial six-month placement in industry in return for professional skills and experience. The British Library's 17th- and 18th-century manuscript collections formed the basis for much of my PhD, and I was eager to begin my postdoctoral career in an institution that proved so vital for my doctoral research.
I completed my PhD at King’s College London this year on 'epistolary odes', a popular genre of Latin poem in late 17th and 18th-century Britain. Groups of men composed these poems in imitation of the Roman poet Horace and circulated them among intellectual, literary and social circles in manuscript and printed books. They used Latin as a kind of private language to discuss politics, professions and personal subjects including sex, gossip and family life.
My placement draws directly on my PhD experience. I am currently based in the Heritage Made Digital team, and am working on current projects to digitise 16th-century and early 17th-century English manuscripts, as well as publishing items to the Library's Digitised Manuscripts website and with digitised content created over the past 20 years. I have also assisted with cataloguing in the Modern Archives and Manuscripts department. As well as using my knowledge of 17th- and 18th-century literature and history – and Latin – it has been really interesting to work on material unrelated to my research, including cataloguing 19th-century travel journals and early 20th-century correspondence and helping with a Show and Tell event for fashion students in November.
I have contributed a post to the BL Untold Lives blog based on my research on Latin poetry about prostitution in 18th-century London, and have a series of further blogs and an article planned based on the Library’s collections. I will also be giving a presentation during Digital Humanities week at the University of Manchester in January to give doctoral students an introduction to digitisation and digital collections at the library.
So far I have most enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere of learning at the library through staff talks and training sessions, and the opportunity to work directly with the library’s rich and varied collections.
Sara's blog posts:
Hogarth's London in the 18th century Latin poetry of Benjamin Loveling (6 November 2018)
German student duelling and 'lager beer exploits' in a 19th-century travel diary (27 December 2018)