We believe it is important to communicate the results of our research beyond the confines of the academic community. Our aim is to use scholarly enquiry to bring art to life for multiple audiences, including the general public, educational institutions, designers and artists.
We do this particularly by seeking to foster understanding across cultures and through an interest in heritage education. There is an additional focus on the economic impact of tourism through visitor attractions and employment surrounding them.
Our packed schedule of exhibitions, events, lectures and workshops aims to raise awareness about art, culture and their importance among the public, educational groups, designers and artists.
The impact of our research can be best understood by looking at examples of the research projects on which our research staff, postdoctoral fellows and students have been working.
The Power of Dogu & Unearthed (Simon Kaner)
Research into the significance of prehistoric clay figures of human beings led to two hugely popular exhibitions, reaching an audience of over 200,000; ‘The Power of Dogu' at the British Museum and Tokyo National Museum in 2009-10, and ‘Unearthed' at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in 2010.
Attracting funding from a range of sources, the project focused on prehistoric clay figures from Japan and the Balkans in a comparative framework that considered the figures as artworks rather than simply archaeological finds.
Economic activity generated by the research project is estimated to total over £5 million. The British Museum exhibition featured in contemporary Japanese art in the form of manga with a circulation of c. 10 million, as well as in a Japanese documentary broadcast in 2012 to an audience of 10.2 million.
Butrint – Archaeology in Albania (Richard Hodges, John Mitchell and others)
Since 1995 we have been guiding the development of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Butrint, Albania – a major Adriatic port and fortress occupied between c. 600 BC and 1500 AD.
The project has undertaken major research excavations and established an archaeological park that protects cultural assets and provides local employment, while presenting Albanian heritage to the public and academic community. Through collaboration with the Albanian Ministry of Culture, the project has set the standard for the management of archaeological sites in Albania.
Butrint now attracts more than 80,000 visitors per year, where it had barely 1,000 per year before the project began in the 1990s. The large volume of publications and monographs on this topic include seven guidebooks in English and Albania. A full list can be found on the Butrint website.
Fijian Art Research Project (Prof Steven Hooper and Dr Karen Jacobs)
This three-year collaborative project aims to unlock the potential of the remarkable and beautiful collections of Fijian artwork found in museums throughout the UK and abroad – many of which have never been displayed.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (SRU) has joined forces with the Museum for Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) at the University of Cambridge and is working with nine project partners, including the British Museum and Fiji Museum.
Research has been disseminated in the exhibition ‘Chiefs and Governors: Art and Power in Fiji', as well as at the conference ‘Researching Fijian Collections' at MAA in 2013. Another exhibition is planned for 2015-16, at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art, as well as museums in Bonn and Geneva. www.fijianart.sru.uea.ac.uk
Art of Faith – Icon? (Dr Margit Thøfner)
What is the relationship between religious artefacts and the locality where they are made and used? This was the core question of a collaborative project between Art History and World Art Studies and the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition ‘The Art of Faith: 3500 Years of Art and Faith in Norfolk' attracted 26,000 visitors and was extremely well received.
The project set out to test the theory that religious artefacts take agency from the locality in which they were made or used. Having researched and compiled a list of over 500 artefacts, the UEA team narrowed them down to 150 objects to put on display.
The exhibition was accompanied by a conference and a series of lectures. Feedback gathered showed that visitors found the exhibition thought provoking about the powers of religious works of art and by extension the dangers of religious violence.
Beyond the Basket
This project investigated the important role that basketry has played in the development of human culture. It demonstrated basket-making's connection with subsistence, survival and human progress, as well as with pattern-making, art and the creation of structures.
The research was undertaken over a three-year period by a team of archaeologists, anthropologists and art historians at UEA. Fieldwork took place primarily in South America, Papua New Guinea and South East Asia.
The exhibition ‘Basketry: Making Human Nature' at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art in 2011, included stunning examples of basketry from around the world, together with new commissions, and attracted an audience of over 10,000.
The project highlighted basketry's relevance to contemporary art, design, technology and recycling and alerted museums to the cultural importance of basketry. www.basketry.ac.uk