Based in the Department of History, ‘Project Alex’ is a new initiative exploring ways to embed public engagement in research-led teaching. Led by Dr Catherine Fletcher, Lecturer in Public History, the project centres on the life and times of Alessandro de’ Medici, first duke of Florence (ruled 1531-37). The illegitimate son of an African slave, Simonetta, and Lorenzo, duke of Urbino, Alessandro was the first ‘black’ head of state in the modern West but his life is relatively little-known.
Though ‘Project Alex’ begins with research into Alessandro and his court – and will end with the usual academic publications – the public engagement element has been in place right from the start of the archive work this summer. A blog discussing the research process has been launched and currently features entries from both Dr Fletcher and SURE bursary-holder Emma Newman. Emma worked on the project over the summer alongside Leyla Yilmaz, a third-year undergraduate who has been helping to develop schools workshops funded through the Arts Enterprise scheme. The first pilot workshops will be held in November at Notre Dame School and Worksop College, with a project launch following on Monday 25 November, 5.30pm in the Jessop West foyer (colleagues very welcome).
Since the start of term the project has had twenty new contributors in the form of two first-year student groups on the History Workshop module. They are learning about the research process by joining in bibliographic research, discussing source analysis and considering the existing literature related to the project – just as in the usual research-led teaching model. But they are also able, right from the start of their degree, to contribute to its public face via the blog and workshops, a Facebook page, exhibits for the project launch and a Twitter account, @alexmedicidux. We look forward to bringing you more news as the project progresses.