Q & A with the Director of the HRI

Professor Nikki Dibben, Director of the HRI

What are the Arts and Humanities?

The Arts and Humanities at the University of Sheffield are about the languages, cultures, histories and imaginaries that make us human.

Why do they matter?

Researchers in Arts and Humanities question shared assumptions, share new meanings in artistic works, and find new ways to understand cultural interactions. Doing this brings new understanding about the past and present through which we can prepare better for, and shape, the future. Our Global Humanities Initiative is one place we articulate the value of Arts and Humanities research at Sheffield and beyond.

How do we do Arts and Humanities Research?

Arts and Humanities research can involve teams of researchers, and/or ‘sole-researchers’, such as an individual scholar researching in an archive, or a composer working in a sound studio. The book, or other artefact that results from this process is part of an ongoing investigation, or dialogue, into the meaning and possibilities of being human. As well as using established methods of interpretation and analysis, our researchers use and develop new methods of analysis: recent examples can be seen in the work of HumLab – a facility for research into language, music and cognition – and the Digital Humanities Institute.

Who is doing Arts and Humanities Research?

In addition to academics and students, the Arts and Humanities are studied by independent scholars, authors, creative and performing artists and other practitioners. At Sheffield, there are c.350 academics working in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and many more working in other departments on related projects. We work with non-academic partners and organisations to share knowledge and increase understanding and many of these people participate in the events run by the HRI.

Where does Arts and Humanities Research happen?

Research takes place in libraries, archives, in the ‘field’, online, in laboratories (HumLab, DHI, Sound Studios), and in performance spaces. The meeting rooms and conference spaces of the HRI are used by visiting researchers, for conferences, symposia, and workshops as a common space for cross-departmental and cross-faculty research activities.

What’s the role of the HRI in Arts and Humanities Research at Sheffield?

Humanities Institutes and Centres take many different forms, and the HRI has its own particular role to play as ‘the home for collaborative research in arts and humanities’ - anticipating, identifying and helping our researchers respond to opportunities as they arise in a changing context for research.

For 20 years the HRI has been a leader in the field of Digital Humanities, providing expertise for projects around the world using digital platforms. In 2013 the HRI was given a broader remit to serve as the home of collaborative research for the Arts and Humanities at Sheffield, and its digital activities were renamed the Digital Humanities Institute.

In the 2.5 years since the (new) HRI has been operating, we initiated a variety of formats to support cross-departmental, cross-research centre, and cross-faculty collaborative research: thematic workshops followed by seed-corn funding; visiting fellows to work on project development; one-off events and themed talks, discussions and provocations.

We also support the work of the Faculty’s research centres: modest funding to research centres in 2016-17 resulted in over 30 events over-and-above the centres’ normal activities, including 5 scoping studies with archives and non-academic partners, 2 international PG collaborations, development of 3 network funding bids, 9 talks and symposia with associated PG training workshops, and development of an academic-in-residence bid, and 2 standard grant applications. The HRI also lobbies for support for interdisciplinary initiatives at Faculty and institutional level and works with research centres through the Directors Forum.