Tricked by Memory

Professor Lisa Bortolotti chairs three talks from researchers based in the Philosophy Department at the University of Birmingham exploring the effects of biased, distorted and false memories. The session will be followed with an opportunity for audience questions.

Presentations include:
– Sometimes I Get Lucky and Forget – Depression, Memory and Negative Bias by Magdalena Antrobus.
– Distorting the Past to Serve Our Present Needs by Dr Anneli Jefferson.
– How False Memory Can (and Cannot) Improve Our Perception of the World by Dr Kathy Puddifoot.
Presented by Department of Philosophy with sponsorship from project PERFECT –

LUCIA: Improving Vision in Ethiopia

University of Birmingham staff established the charity LUCIA (Life Uplifted by Change in Africa) to improve the lives of women and children in Ethiopia.

Trustees Sylvia Gardiner (BEM) and Dr Janet Clarke will discuss how LUCIA has worked in partnership with UK charity Vision Aid Overseas to improve the eyesight of primary school children at Saria School in Ethiopia. The session will also look at how LUCIA works with local NGOs to build libraries and improve the health of children and communities.

Presented by LUCIA

The Art of Anatomy

Exhibition of how artists have depicted the dissected human body in anatomical literature from the time of Vesalius (1543) onwards, selected from the University’s Special Collections by Professor Alice Roberts, including works from publications by Albinus, Bell, Cheselden, Bidloo and Cowper.

Presented by Special Collections: Cadbury Research Library 

Secrets of Trees

Jeremy Pritchard and Alice Roberts explore the biology, ecology and archaeology of trees and wood.

Jeremy asks – Why do trees have rings? Why are some rings bigger than other rings? – and looks at how experiments at the University’s Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) are setting out to find answers as to how trees will respond to climate change.

Alice looks at two archaeological sites with exceptional preservation of wood. At Must Farm, relics include entire Bronze Age roundhouses, down to the handles of axes and wooden buckets. At Bettelbuhl in Germany, archaeologists have been able to determine the precise year in which an Iron Age princess was buried – thanks to tree rings.


Sculptures for the Modern World


In October 2017, the Barber acquired the exquisite abstract Linear Construction in Space, No 1, by one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century, Naum Gabo.

This lecture by Russian Modernism expert Professor Christina Lodder, University of Kent, explores Gabo’s highly innovative work, inspired by the new scientific realities of the modern world as well as the social and political possibilities of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Producing constructed works from transparent materials and stringing, he succeeded in evoking space and time, while communicating his vision of a better and more human society.

Presented by The Barber Institute of Fine Arts as part of The Barber Evening Lecture Series.

Objects in Focus: Replica Objects and Reconstructing the Past

In October 2019, the Archaeology Collection will relaunch with an exciting new redisplay giving insight into aspects of ancient European, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cultures. The new display is a joint venture between the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology (CAHA) and Research and Cultural Collections created with the assistance of student volunteers. To celebrate the launch of the new display, a series of object-focused lunchtime talks invites you to learn more…

Join Professor Henry Chapman for this talk examining the use of replicas and reconstruction of the past. The talk draws on objects in the collection and findings from a community-led project involving the reconstruction of a prehistoric trackway and platform in South Yorkshire to ask, what is it that we are actually reconstructing?

Presented by Research and Cultural Collections in partnership with the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology.

Art That Tickles the Brain

Ever wondered what really happens to your brain when you look at art? Join Jane Raymond, Professor of Visual Cognition at the University of Birmingham’s School of Psychology for this interactive gallery session to find out!

Explore the abstract works in the Barber’s current exhibition Chance, Order, Change in a totally different way. Find out about the effects of such artworks on our brain, visual cognition and perception and the psychology of art in this illustrated talk.

Presented by The Barber Institute of Fine Arts in partnership with the School of Psychology

Maori Tattooed Heads

From the 1700s to late 1800s, explorers went all around the world collecting human remains to send back to the UK, where individuals and museums were keen to add to their collections. In time, these were often donated to medical schools. At Birmingham, we have a collection of skulls from around the world, which we are keen to repatriate.

In October 2013, the University hosted a delegation of Maori elders and held a formal handover ceremony to return Maori skulls to New Zealand. Dr. June Jones, Head of Repatriation, will discuss the issues raised by repatriation, using the Maori repatriation as a case study. The handover ceremony was filmed, so the presentation will include excerpts from the film, demonstrating the spiritual importance of the ceremony to all in attendance. June continues her collaboration with the Maori repatriation centre in New Zealand, and will discuss the lasting impact of respecting differing cultural perspectives about the treatment of the dead.

Presented by School of Health and Population Sciences

When ‘life’ means’ death’ – are life sentences really an appropriate alternative to the death penalty?

..are life sentences merely the death penalty by another name?

The UK is currently struggling with the question of how to punish those who commit the most serious offences. Prime Minister David Cameron has recently criticized the European Court of Human Rights for holding that ‘whole life orders’ are unlawful, and there are many who believe that we should be able to ‘lock people up and throw away the key.’

In this talk, Dr Bharat Malkani will examine the pros and cons of whole life orders, and suggest that ‘whole life orders’ are, in practical terms, just the same as the death penalty. By denying prisoners the prospect of release, we are just subjecting them to death by incarceration, which is perhaps worse than death by lethal injection or death by electrocution. And if this is the case, we need to ask ourselves whether we want to bring back capital punishment.

Presented by Birmingham Law School

The Colour Blue: Origins and Symbolism

Travel through the fascinating story of the colour blue in this lunchtime gallery talk at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Journey from precious lapis lazuli in the Renaissance, to the explosion of synthetic blues used by the Pre-Raphaelites and the Impressionists, and find out about the colour blue’s many symbolic and emotional meanings over time.

**Due to popular demand, a second gallery talk will take place on Friday 17 March, 14:30 – 15:00. Bookings open for this date only.

Presented by The Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

The Antikythera Mechanism – A 2000 Year Old Computer


Constructed by Greek scientists during the Hellenistic period (c. 150 to 100 BC), The Antikythera Mechanism is an astronomical computer with working gears and at 2000 years old, is the oldest known advanced scientific instrument.

The device was used to track and calculate the position of the moon, sun and planets, as well as predict the dates of solar and lunar eclipses. It is one of the greatest discoveries of ancient artefacts globally and proves that humans conceived and constructed a Mechanical Cosmos much earlier than we believed.

Join Dr Maria Pavlidou from the School of Physics & Astronomy for this interactive event in which you can hear the latest research on the device, manipulate photographs of the largest archaeological fragments of the Mechanism, and interact with a real model constructed by David Goodchild.

Supported by the Institute of Physics.

Objects in Focus: Lead Figurines From the Spartan Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia

In October 2019, the University’s Archaeology Collection will relaunch with an exciting new redisplay giving insight into aspects of ancient European, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cultures. The new display is a joint venture between the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology (CAHA) and Research and Cultural Collections, created with the assistance of student volunteers. To celebrate the launch of the new display, a series of object-focused lunchtime talks invites you to learn more…

Dr Andrew Bayliss examines figurines from a shrine where ancient tourists watched Spartan boys dying under the lash as part of a bizarre ceremony known as “flagellation”.
Depicting foot-soldiers and winged goddesses, the figurines appear to match the image of Spartans as militaristic and overly pious, as described in our written sources. But is there more than meets the eye?

Presented by Research and Cultural Collections in partnership with the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology.

Mindfulness: Remembering to Forget

The idea of mindfulness has never been so popular in the UK. Ever more frequently, we are informed of the impressive benefits of “being mindful”, from improved relaxation and concentration to greater creativity and physical health. Popular accounts of mindfulness, however, are often short on detail concerning how this hallowed state is to be attained. Defining mindfulness simply as a “present-centred” and “non-judgemental” form of awareness lacks instructiveness and brushes over some of the more deliberative and conceptual activities that mindfulness has traditionally been associated with.

Recent scholarly work has come to emphasise the rich historical connotations of the term, problematising simplistic definitions. It has likewise stressed that an appreciation of this history can help us in the actual practice of mindfulness, that is to say, how we might cultivate it. In this talk, Philosophy postgraduate Michael Roberts, outlines how these considerations highlight the importance of memory and active forgetting in practice and suggest that we might best conceive mindfulness practice as a procedure of “remembering to forget” what is unhelpful to us.

Presented by Department of Philosophy, Theology & Religion.

Lawrence of Arabia

Join Dr John Peaty, International Secretary for the British Commission for Military History, for this lecture as part of the University of Birmingham’s War Studies Seminar programme.

Peaty has lectured widely on military history to both specialist and non-specialist audiences both in the UK and abroad. He has contributed to volumes of essays and has published articles on military history.
Dr Peaty is an inveterate battlefield tourer.

Presented by the Centre for War Studies

Birmingham Great War Centenary Lecture: Roads to War

To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, the University of Birmingham’s Centre for War Studies is hosting a series of lectures by distinguished international historians exploring the origins of the First

World War.

This session features Dr. Annika Mombauer (Open University), Dr. William Mulligan (University College Dublin) and Dr. Jonathan Gumz (University of Birmingham).

Presented by Centre for War Studies

Seaweeds, Deep Time and the Tree of Life

Bioscientist Juliet Coates examines the ancient place held by seaweeds in the Tree of Life – a metaphor used to describe the relationships between organisms, both living and extinct – and discusses how recent pre-Cambrian fossil finds in China add to our knowledge.

Artist Anne Parouty describes how she works with the chemical composition of seaweeds in creating her cyanotype impressions of them. She will also discuss the inspirational and important part seaweeds have played in the earliest human migrations.

Presented by Anne Parouty in partnership with the School of Biosciences and Lapworth Museum of Geology.

Hans Schwarz – Negotiating Identity

Led by Researcher in Residence Ellie Hill, this event will explore issues of displacement, acculturation and identity trauma in the works of Austrian born artist, Hans Schwarz: a Kindertransport refugee exiled to Bournville, Birmingham in 1939.

Schwarz’s career as an artist can be seen to evidence a negotiation between self-identity and subject under acculturative stress. Shedding light on key examples in Research and Cultural Collections’ archive, the talk considers the construction of émigré identity in Hans Schwarz’s portraits of people and landscape.

Presented by Ellie Hill in partnership with Research & Cultural Collections.

Arts & Science Lightning Talks

Get to know six artworks in 60 minutes… all with a link between arts, science and illumination.

Ever wondered what goes into making paint pigments? Pondered on how photography shook up the art world? Or stopped to ask what’s happening in your brain when you look at art? Find out all this and more in just one hour!

Continue the conversations over complimentary drinks, served after the talks.

Presented by The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Why What I Study Matters

How does research in Arts, Humanities and Law subjects link to the world beyond the university? Find out by hearing from a cross-section of the College of Arts and Law’s postgraduate students, who will share their research and its wider implications with you.

Presented by College of Arts and Law

Dreams Time Free

Mat Jenner will talk about his exhibition Dreams Time Free, currently showing at Grand Union. The exhibition includes Foam, a mass collection of one-off 12” dub plate records by 115 contemporary artists, which visitors are invited to listen to in the gallery.

Mat will discuss some of the ideas behind the collection and how it links with other works in the show.

Presented by Cultural Engagement in partnership with Grand Union