TRACES is a three year project (March 2016 - February 2019) which brings together artists, ethnographers, heritage agencies and other stakeholders from nine EU countries. It is funded by an EU Horizon 2020 grant of over two million Euros.

The project is structurally quite complex, encompassing artistic and ethnographic research, and research on education, heritage and contentious collections. Its overriding theme is how we can work with, and learn from, so-called ‘contentious heritage’ through experimental artistic and ethnographic research and how this can be conveyed to the public through exhibitions and education.

Dead Images

‘Dead Images’ sits within the overarching TRACES project, and involves artists, anthropologists, a forensic archaeologist and an art historian/researcher from Edinburgh, Berlin and Vienna.

Together, the group is exploring collections of human skulls which are housed, usually hidden from the public, in museums and institutions across Europe.

The University of Edinburgh team working on 'Dead Images' comprises Joan Smith at Edinburgh College of Art, John Harries from the School of Social and Politicial Science, and Linda Fibiger of the School of History, Classics & Archaeology.

As a team, these three researchers have previously worked together on ‘The Bones Beneath the Face’ and ‘Word of Mouth: Talking about how we interpret skulls’ with Surgeons' Hall Museums in Edinburgh and are members of the ‘Bones Collective’.

Viewing a subject through many different lenses

TRACES explores how a subject can be viewed through many different lenses, bringing together specialisms and working in open and innovative ways.

The collaborative aspect of the research project is an important driver and links to the School of Art’s thematic approach to research clusters.

Working across countries is not easy, and regular contact relies on the use of a digital platform, as well as group meetings in different European cities.

Anticipated outputs include two exhibitions, a symposium in Edinburgh, and an education programme, while various external events and projects also drive the research: for example, a forthcoming journal article on the ethics of making and displaying photographs of human remains, and conference contributions (including artworks). 

Joan Smith is a painter and printmaker. She is a lecturer in the School of Art and Director of Undergraduate Studies at ECA. Joan's research focuses on links between art and science, with particular reference to historic objects used for teaching. She is a member of the Narrative / Trace / Physicality research cluster.

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