I had my PhD viva today. The last time I had a viva, 21 years ago, I believe I went in a touch intoxicated. That experiment in controlling nerves was not a success. I see it as a sign of how much I've grown up that this time I stuck to my pledge to reverse the order. This experiment worked, and after a really enjoyable 2 1/4 hours chatting with my examiners I was given the news that I had passed (I have minor corrections to make, but hey, I'll take that!) If I'm completely honest, perhaps the embarrassing 3rd class degree I "earned" in 1992 helped to get me to my doctorate by giving me a chip on my shoulder big enough to drive me through what I'd have to describe as a challenging (but immensely rewarding) seven years. That chip has now been doused in mayonnaise and eaten - nomnomnom!*
This blog was intended initially to be a research diary. It's long since stopped being that, or anything much, but I do intend some time soon to write a bit about the whole PhD experience, to summarise what I did and the conclusions I reached, and maybe talk about where I'd like to take it next. For this post, though, I only want to do the most important thing of all: thank a bunch of people. Having done this in the acknowledgements of my thesis, which I expect that almost no-one I've thanked will ever read, I'm just going to paste it in here. All I'd add is that there are actually many other people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Many of sent tweets today and I didn't manage to acknowledge them all, but I read and deeply appreciated every one. But over the last 7 years I've also had conversations around the broad subject area of my research with countless colleagues, friends, peers, and venerable elders, and every one has left its mark in my thinking. Whoever of these I've failed to thank by name, I haven't forgotten: you have my sincere appreciation.
*literally: great chips at the Marquis today, courtesy of Ross. Thanks Ross!
I should like, first of all, to thank the AHRC for their support in funding this PhD, one of their first ever collaborative doctoral awards. My heartfelt gratitude goes to Ross Parry, my academic supervisor and an extraordinary teacher and friend, whose understanding of my thoughts around this subject so often exceeded my own ability to express them, and who managed somehow to shepherd me gradually towards the mindset of a scholar. The project’s commercial partner was MWR, and although the company went through two rebirths before finally ceasing operations, the support – financial, personal and academic – never wavered, first in the form of Andrew Sawyer and latterly of Martyn Farrows. To both Andy and Martyn, sincere thanks. Your input at critical moments has been invaluable and much appreciated.
When I started the project I worked at the Museum of London, which soon signed up as a third partner. At MoL I owe a particular debt to my friend and manager, Pete Rauxloh, but would also thank Bilkis Mosoddik and Mia Ridge, colleagues there who took an extra load when my attentions were divided.
Carolyn Royston, my manager since I joined the Imperial War Museum in 2010, has offered every help she could, and done so at a time when my studies might have seemed like a distraction, given what I still had to learn in order to succeed in my day job. To her and my other patient colleagues at IWM, many, many thanks.
My case studies were possible only through the vital support and documentation provided by their host institutions, and I am especially indebted to the individuals within and outside those organisations who gave their time as interviewees: Cathy Ross & Claire Sussums at MoL; Jill Cousins, David Haskiya, Luca Martinelli, Jan Molendijk, Nick Poole and Harry Verwayen, interviewed for Europeana; and NMSI’s Robert Bud, Andrew Nahum and Dan Evans. Many other individuals provided additional advice and insights that helped to steer me to a clearer understanding of these projects.
A lot can happen in seven years, and it felt like most things did, and the moral support and enthusiasm for my study that I received from my friends and my family were priceless. Most of all, of course, I thank my lovely wife Fiona, whose patience and sacrifices so that I can complete this work have been embarrassingly great; and our children Isabella, Luca, and Sacha, three bairns with scarcely a memory between them of a time when Daddy wasn't studying for his PhD. To all four of them I give my love, thanks, apologies, and my promise that I am now theirs again.