Joanna Wood, a fourth year Oriel DPhil candidate in the Department of Politics and International Relations, has co-curated a public exhibition on the history of women’s international thought in the early twentieth century. The exhibition is currently on display at the LSE Library Gallery and will run until 2nd September 2022.
In the lead up to the exhibition’s launch, Joanna was part of the team responsible for curating the exhibits (a process that took over a year). She also produced audio guides describing the exhibits and posters on display and co-wrote a blog for the LSE Review of Books about the process of making the exhibition accessible to blind and visually impaired audiences.
The exhibition ‘explores the ideas, genres, and contexts of women’s international thinking in Britain and the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. A period of colonial and anti-colonial struggles, superpower rivalry, racial, class and gendered conflicts’. It seeks to bring to light ‘women international thinkers and their work at a fundamental moment in the imagining of international relations’.
Reflecting on the decision to create an accessible exhibition, Joanna Wood and Dr Katharina Rietzler (Director of the Centre for American Studies at Sussex University and Co-Investigator on the multidisciplinary Leverhulme Research Project Grant: Women and the History of International Thought) wrote in an article for The Leverhulme Trust:
‘The exhibition form […] opens up access for many people excluded from traditional academic outputs, such as those who are visual learners, neurodivergent, have English as an additional language, or have learning needs or disabilities. However, it can also exclude, as Joanna, our PhD student who is visually impaired, knows well. Committing to making the exhibition accessible to blind and visually impaired audiences, as well as recognising the gains for other groups, gave us the chance to think about the themes of inclusion and representation in a new light – this time focused on diverse audiences and curators, as well as historical producers of knowledge’.
On the value that describing the exhibition brings, they said, ‘Being descriptive actively enhanced our work: you don’t really understand something or why it is important until you have had to describe it. It got us thinking about why we were drawn to certain exhibits, where their power lay and what representation meant in different contexts’.