This blog is about my journey toward my PhD, which is tentatively titled Changing Landscapes, Changing Meanings: A study of South Australian War Memorials.
The journey began at the end of 2014. We were returning to Adelaide from a wedding in the Clare Valley and had stopped in at Auburn to look around before the trip home. I was already looking for a research topic when I was drawn to the war memorial in the main street. The style of the memorial is unusual. While many memorials are in the shape of an obelisk the tower-like at the apex appears to be unique. This memorial became the catalyst for my PhD proposal.
War Memorial, Auburn, SA. (copyright RSL-SA)
From there it became a matter of focusing in on a research area. I knew I wanted to do something with memorials, but what? There has been a lot written by about memorials in Australia, Ken Inglis covered the history of Australian war memorials in Sacred Places. An email from Ken pointed me to a new publication by South Australian art historian Donald Richardson, Creating Remembrance: The art and design of Australian War Memorials (2015). So the general history had been covered. What could I research?
After many discussions with Dr Heather Burke and Dr Alice Gorman at Flinders University the research question became clearer. A research proposal was accepted by the Department of Archaeology at Flinders in late 2015 and the 1st of April 2016 set as my official commencement. So what am I researching?
War memorials don’t exist in isolation. They are part of a larger cultural landscape and interact with parks, buildings and people around them: each gives meaning to the other. As time passes memorials are moved or removed, and the surrounding landscape changes, as does the meaning of the memorials. My research seeks to identify how the changes to the memorials and the landscape impact on meanings of each. How do these changes affect the relationship between the memorial and the other commemorative features in the landscape? Does moving a memorial or changing its surroundings impact on its visibility or meaning?
So my journey has commenced. Since the beginning of 2015 I have already read over 150 books and articles, and contacted people from Australia to the United Kingdom. The next step is to define the memorials that will be my research focus, and to start writing … and of course lots more reading.
Please join me on my journey!