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19th June 2017

Hanna Smyth (2015, History) wins OxTALENT best poster award

Congratulations to DPhil student Hanna Smyth (2015, History) who has won the OxTALENT award for best research poster.

The OxTALENT awards recognise members of the University who have made innovative use of digital technology in order to foster learning and academic practice at either undergraduate or postgraduate level; develop more effective links between teaching and research; or improve impact through outreach and public engagement.

Ms Smyth was awarded the prize for her poster Material Culture of Remembrance and Identity. It shows a striking image of the Vimy Memorial, Canada’s national First World War monument in France, together with key information drawn from Ms Smyth’s DPhil thesis.

The panel of OxTALENT judges said: ‘We were all immediately attracted to Hanna’s poster. The bold image, carefully composed, works so well with the poster’s content and layout.’

Ms Smyth fought off competition from around 50 other students who presented posters, all of which can be viewed here. To view a full resolution PDF of Material Culture of Remembrance and Identity click here.

Ms Smyth said: ‘The purpose of this poster was to convey the key arguments of my thesis to an international audience of First World War scholars who specialise in non-European perspectives. The poster is structured to echo my thesis structure: the box at the top contains my overall thesis argument, while the four parallel boxes below present the key messages of each of my four chapters-in-progress. It was crucial to me to have the four boxes parallel: my thesis is structured thematically, rather than chronologically (or geographically), so there is not a linear progression from first to last chapter.

‘I adamantly did not want my poster layout to give a misleading impression to the contrary. I put the title, my contact info and the Oxford logo all on the right side of the poster because the downward slant of the memorial in the image makes that side heavier; to put those extra elements on the light side would have felt jarring to the viewer. I liked how the blue sky ties to the blue of the Oxford logo, while the clouds continue the white/grey theme that predominates on the rest of the poster.

‘Since I research memorials and cemeteries, my thesis is heavily based in and upon material and visual culture; I wanted an evocative image as the backdrop to emphasise this. The image I featured was taken by me in April 2016, and is of the Vimy Memorial, Canada’s national First World War monument in France. The image features the largest sculpture on the memorial, the 30-tonne ‘Mother Canada mourning her fallen sons’, overlooking the empty tomb at the base of the monument. I thought the composition of the photo, with the large expanse of blank wall, lent itself well to being superimposed with text. The inclusion of both memorial and tomb in the same photo also reinforces a key theme of my thesis that the poster elucidates: the relationship between them. Another key theme is represented by the Mother Canada figure: the relationship between the individual and the collective in First World War mourning. She is an individual figure, but marshals a collective identity as a personification of a grieving nation.’

Hanna Smyth's research poster

Material Culture of Remembrance and Identity by Hanna Smyth. To view a full resolution PDF of the poster click here.

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