PhD Scholarships- Waterborne: The heritage, culture and environment of UK reservoirs

The Universities of Lancaster, Liverpool and Manchester Metropolitan have secured an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded team project, titled ‘Waterborne: The heritage, culture and environment of UK reservoirs’, that will support three, fully funded PhD Scholarships. Using traditional means alongside critical creative methods, the team project will research the design, literary history and heritage of reservoir building in the UK. Three distinct, but interlinked projects at the three Universities will create a rich understanding of the interrelations between design, policy, community memory and the tangible and intangible heritage of water infrastructure. This new understanding will assist in the creation of more sustainable futures and situate the viewpoints of a variety of communities and groups at the centre of a national conversation.

The project based at the University of Liverpool School of Architecture is a collaborative doctoral award delivered in collaboration with the Special Collections and Archives at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). The successful applicant will research the landscape architectural history of post-war British reservoirs and the links between the profession of landscape architecture and environmental and conservation charities and lobby groups such as the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and the Council for National Parks. Building on the rich archival materials at the MERL, the project will interrogate how perceptions of landscape and countryside manifested in the landscape architectural designs of reservoirs, how they were affected by the changing socio-political context of the British Welfare State, and their impact on heritage policy and community use today.

The project at Lancaster University is in partnership with Historic England. They have recently identified an absence of an assessment framework for reservoirs as a ‘monument type’. Reservoirs are one of the last missing pieces in the industrial archaeology of the UK. This project will address a significant gap in knowledge at a moment when reservoirs, their associated built objects and their landscapes are subject to changes in regulation that will lead to physical change. Such change necessitates better understanding of the historical significance of reservoirs, their structures and their landscapes to address the contexts of regulation and historic designation. This novel contribution will consider the combined role of heritage and environment in infrastructural settings, bringing history and ecology into a relational discourse. The project will have a sequence of overlapping, but distinct, phases, designed with the CDA partner, that will address both the gap in knowledge and to inform future methods of heritage assessment.

Further details and how to apply for the Lanacaster and Liverpool projects may be found here:

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