While it’s great working on one particular avenue of thought, and exploring and refining it until you really feel you’ve mined the issue in full, there’s nothing quite like moving on to a new topic!
Yep, I’m a thrill-seeker alright! So you can imagine my excitement when my PhD supervisor agreed that I was ready to move on to the next section of my thesis, which is all about the horse as a symbol in Australian culture.
In recent months I have been dealing with ideas about the horse as heritage, and have moved away from the museum context and the centrality of the Object, within which my thesis was originally conceived. However, in this next section of research the content demands a return to the museum. After all, in terms of material culture, the horse occupies a very interesting position in museum collections, where the objects relating to it are very frequently also made from it; these objects are simultaneously both THINGS and representations of SENTIENCE.
Think of Phar Lap, in many ways Australia’s ultimate equine symbol. His heart, such a visceral object, is not exhibited alongside other visceral objects, but with images of him as a whole horse. His parts stand for the whole, and that whole itself stands for something we believe to be quintessentially Australian. He is portrayed as a “battler”, a figure of hope, and a hero. He is no longer a horse – he has become a symbol of something more. I want to dig deeper into the strange nature of many such equine objects, and to explore the role the museum plays in re-framing horses as symbols.
Sitting down at my laptop, with a new Word document opened in front of me, I quickly bash out a range of questions I want to frame the next section of my research around, and feel that familiar thrill of a clean slate, an open road – a new research beginning!