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A journey through art history with the Travelling Sisterhood of Art Historians


Visiting Research Fellow and alumna Dr Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth has launched a podcast dedicated to promoting the study of art & material culture, alongside three other early career art historians.

The Travelling Sisterhood of Art Historians (TSAH) is a new, public-facing art history podcast available on all major streaming platforms. Since launching in February 2021, it has received over 2,000 unique downloads and has been streamed thousands of times.

The TSAH podcast is dedicated to promoting the study of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art and material culture. It is hosted by four early career art historians: Dr Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth (School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds); Dr Serena Dyer (De Montfort University); Dr Freya Gowrley (University of Derby; and Dr Maddy Pelling (University of York).

The main objectives of the Travelling Sisterhood of Art Historians are to deliver expert-led art historical content to a broad audience, to expand disciplinary boundaries within art history, and to give a platform to a diverse range of scholarly voices including academics, curators and practitioners. In combining these goals, the podcast seeks to create a broad and inclusive community.

Each episode involves an interview with a special guest, and each week they bring along one or two objects for discussion.

Series one covered the theme of ‘Materials’ and included interviews with experts such as Professor Laura Engel on Wax, Dr Kit Maxwell on Glass, Professor Matt Smith on Ceramics, and Dr Cora Gilroy-Ware on Stone.

The most recent episode – Paint – featured Dr Kate Nichols (University of Birmingham) speaking about her upcoming project on the global history of Victorian art through the materiality of paint.

A second and third series are in the early stages of production. Series two will cover the theme of ‘Bodies’, with episodes on the visual and material cultures of muscles, disease, reproduction, disability, intoxicants, weight, and queer and trans bodies.

TSAH logo with background image of detail from a painting of Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self Portrait in a Straw Hat, after 1782. The National Gallery.

Dr Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth gained her AHRC-funded PhD from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies in 2019 (within the Centre for the Study of the Art and Antiques Market). She went on to work as a Teaching Fellow in Art History and Museum Studies, before taking up a role as a Visiting Research Fellow in the School in September 2020.

Caroline said of the podcasts:

“I am encouraged by the positive feedback the podcast has already received for its first series.

“The Travelling Sisterhood of Art Historians podcast series enables listeners to examine histories of art and culture from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and actively shape their understanding of the visual world through objects, stories and scholarly research.

“By supporting a broadening out of art historical research, it encourages new perspectives and promotes a wide range of disciplinary practices, from more traditional art history, to art and design practice, material culture, literary studies, and museum studies.

“One of the best things to emerge so far from the podcast is its potential as a pedagogical tool. Several undergraduate and postgraduate-level courses in art history in the United Kingdom and the United States have already added the podcast episodes to their reading lists. This has been wonderful news to receive as it confirms the potential possibilities that podcasts offer as a means of public engagement.

“The idea that the Travelling Sisterhood of Art Historians can act as a platform for expanding the art historical conversation is really exciting, especially as an early career researcher.”

You can listen to the Travelling Sisterhood of Art Historians podcast on any regular podcast streaming sites, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Audible and Stitcher.

A link to the short trailer episode can be found here.

Feature image

Detail of Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self Portrait in a Straw Hat, after 1782. The National Gallery.