On London’s Buses: Critical Heritage Practices in Everyday Mobility and Transport Museums.
How do we experience time on bus journeys – with the wait at the bus stop, the slow crawl through congestion, the stop-start of passengers joining and leaving the bus? What about the past – yourself yesterday when you made the same journey, 20 years ago with your school friends, or through views of the historic landscape framed by mistied windows? The bus as a machine, and the route within the bus network also have a past – perhaps those best studied by transport experts.
But these pasts exist in the now and will only exist tomorrow through continued use by you and fellow passengers. In this way, bus travel is a conservation practice. It shares other attributes with heritage practice too – as a site for representing and forming identities (both individual and communal) and forming knowledge through classification (such as route numbering, bus stop coding). Like heritage, bus travel in some sense belongs to all of us. It is created by individuals, communities, institutions and governments and it is always in transformation.
My research seeks to study the relationship between the past and bus travel: as embodied by everyday life experiences on London Buses and heritage practices at the city’s museums (Museum of London, London Transport Museum and London Bus Museum).
The project builds on social research by, for example Tonkiss (2003) and Jain (2009), but employs specific heritage methods through a series of investigations: analysing communication techniques at different types of museums, collecting stories of bus journeys through a community engagement project, and the (re-)presentation of material bus-related artefacts within a heritage setting. I hope the research will create and test new forms of museum working, for example in contemporary collecting and exhibition, and contribute to knowledge about transport museums which are not widely written about (Divall & Scott, 2001).
The research is ‘framed’ within the Critical Heritage discourse (Harrison, 2013; Smith, 2012) and the New Mobilities paradigm (Sheller & Urry, 2006; Cresswell, 2010). A theoretical aim of the project is to interrogate how the concept of mobility – understood as purposeful movement of people, things and ideas through space and time – can inform an understanding of heritage as a relation of place and power.
In a more general sense, it seeks to redefine London bus travel as a significant social and cultural activity, worth paying attention to – because it informs personal understandings of the self, it creates communities of strangers and it helps us make sense of the global metropolis – as a network of places and memories, belonging to all of its citizens.
My supervisors are Dr Kathy Doherty and Dr Becky Shaw, Sheffield Hallam University
● Cresswell, T. (2010). Mobilities 1: Catching Up. Progress in Human Geography, 35 (4), 550-558. doi: 10.1177/0309132510383348.
● Divall, C. & Scott, A. (2001). Making Histories in Transport Museums. Leicester: Leicester University Press. ● Harrison, R. (2013). Heritage: Critical Approaches. Abingdon: Routledge.
● Jain, J. (2009). The making of mundane bus journeys. In P. Vannini (Ed.), The Culture of Alternative Mobilities: Routes Less Travelled. (pp. 91-110). Draft chapter retrieved from http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/10547.
● Sheller, M. & Urry, J. (2006). The New Mobilities Paradigm. Environment and Planning A, 38 (2), 207-226. doi: 10.1068/a37268.
● Smith, L. (2012). Editorial: a Critical Heritage Studies?. International Journal of Heritage Studies,18 (6), 533-540. doi:10.1080/13527258.2012.720794.
● Tonkiss, F. (2003). The ethics of indifference: community and solitude in the city. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 6 (3), 297-311. doi: 10.1177/13678779030063004.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from New Hall, Cambridge University (2007-2010), I held a variety of positions in the arts and heritage sector, most recently as Local History Officer for the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, London. Here, I was responsible for access to and management of the local history collections, the volunteers programme and public engagement projects, working closely with archive and museum colleagues, local partners and residents. During my employment, I completed a master’s degree in Heritage (Contemporary Practice) at Kingston University (2012-2013), my major project being ‘213 bus: the Heritage of Everyday Bus Travel’.
As a Director of the Road Transport History Association, I am committed to promoting social history research as part of transport history, both in and outside of universities. I regularly publish in the Association journal and presented a talk at the Spring Conference, 2016.
My broader research interests surround questions of community making through civil action and methods of governance from the local to the international. I engage with these concerns through art making and supporting a number of interested charitable organisations.