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Unstoppering a 17th-century 'witch bottle' at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Unstoppering a 17th-century 'witch bottle' at the Pitt Rivers Museum

On Tuesday 18 May, presenter Raksha Dave broadcasted live on Facebook from the Pitt Rivers Museum, as a team of our archaeological experts unstoppered a 17th-century ‘witch bottle’. ‘Witch bottles’ is the name given to 17th–century glass and stoneware vessels believed to have been used as the containers of a ‘prepared cure’ against bewitchment. Their contents most commonly include pins and nails, but sometimes nail clippings and hair from the afflicted individual. They have been found placed in hearths or beneath the floors of present-day historic buildings, churchyards, ditches and riverbanks or are recovered from archaeological sites. The bottle opened at this very special event was found in 1893 in what was thought to be the courtyard or garden of the former Duke of Norfolk's Palace in Norwich. It was opened before at some point in its past, but had been re-sealed, contents and all. About the project team: Leading the event are the expert team from ‘Bottles concealed and revealed’, a three-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to recalibrate understandings of the phenomenon of mid-late 17th century ‘witch bottles’ in England. The project is led by MOLA Finds Specialist Nigel Jeffries as Principal Investigator in collaboration with Michael Marshall (MOLA) and Co-Investigators Professor Owen Davies and Dr Ceri Houlbrook from the University of Hertfordshire, who specialise in the study of magic, witchcraft, and popular medicine. The project was recently the subject of a short film for BBC Arts: 'The Life and Times of a Witch Bottle'. About Raksha Dave: Raksha Dave is a public archaeologist and broadcaster, whose time on screen began in 2003 with a decade long stint on the popular Channel 4 series Time Team. She has since presented and co-presented documentaries, series and mini-series, most recently Bone Detectives, Digging Up Britain's Past, Tutankhamun: Life, Death and Legacy, and The Great Plague. Raksha acts as an advocate and consultant for various arts organisations looking to broaden audience participation by looking at ways to encourage diversity and inclusivity in their environments. About Faye Balsey: Faye joined the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2008 and has worked in various roles in the ethnography and archaeology section as Assistant Curator and Deputy Head of Collections. She has curated numerous exhibitions and participated and contributed collections research and digitisation projects. In 2018, Faye organised the annual Museum Ethnographers Group conference held at the Pitt Rivers Museum on the topic ‘Decolonising the Museum in Practice', and gave a paper on a similar theme – 'Privileging Knowledge: Whose right is it?' – at the 2018 International Council of Museums documentation group conference. #WitchBottleLive
Law Library Tour 2021
Future of the Humanities – The Relevance of Art History

Future of the Humanities – The Relevance of Art History

A panel discussion filmed at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London on 18th March 2019. This is the second conference of the Future of the Humanities Project currently being developed by Georgetown University, Washington, DC, in collaboration with the Las Casas Institute at Blackfriars, Oxford. Under the leadership of Prof. Michael Scott, the project explores the place of the humanities in developing a proper understanding of human life, dignity, and culture. Project seminars, lectures, and conferences draw on the Catholic intellectual tradition in dialogue with other religious, philosophical, and cultural traditions. The Relevance of Art History – Roundtable discussion Speakers: Daphne Todd, Estelle Thompson, Kathleen Soriano, Stephen Farthing. Stephen Farthing RA is a distinguished artist and fellow of the Royal Academy of Art, where he has exhibited his work. He has served as the Ruskin Master at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and is a fellow at St. Edmund’s Hall, Oxford University. Among his well-known books are 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die (2006). Kathleen Soriano is a distinguished independent art curator who previously served as director of exhibitions at the Royal Academy. She has also worked at the National Portrait Gallery and directed the Liverpool Biennial, the largest contemporary art festival in the UK. She is currently curating an exhibition of works by Harald Sohlberg at The Dulwich Picture Gallery. Estelle Thompson is a leading abstract artist known worldwide for her “Fuse Paintings.” Her work is displayed prominently in public galleries and other institutions, including hospitals and universities. She has taught at De Montfort University and Wrexham Glyndwr University and currently teaches at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Daphne Todd, a renowned portrait artist, was the first woman to serve as president of the Royal Society of Portrait Artists. HRH the Prince of Wales, Lord Sainsbury, and Spike Milligan are among her subjects and a number of her paintings are exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery, London. She is also well known as a judge on the BBC’s “The Big Painting Challenge.”
Sir Roger Penrose - AI, Consciousness, Computation, and Physical Law

Sir Roger Penrose - AI, Consciousness, Computation, and Physical Law

Sir Roger Penrose Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford A common scientific view is that the actions of a human brain could, in principle, be simulated by appropriate computation, and even that it may not be too far into the future before computers become so powerful that they will be able to exceed the mental capabilities of any human being. However, by using examples from chess and mathematics, I argue, that the quality of conscious understanding is something essentially distinct from computation. Nevertheless, I maintain that the action of a conscious brain is the product of physical laws, whence consciousness itself must result from physical processes of some kind. Yet physical actions, over a huge range, can be simulated very precisely by computational techniques, as is exemplified by the LIGO gravitational wave detectors confirming precise calculations, within Einstein’s general relativity theory, of signals from black-hole encounters in distant galaxies. Despite this, I argue that there is a profound gap in our understanding of how Einstein’s theory affects quantum systems, and that there is reason to believe that the events termed “collapse of the wave-function” take place objectively (gravitational OR), in a way that defies computation, yet should be observable in certain experiments. It is argued that each such event is accompanied by a moment of “proto-consciousness”, and that actual consciousness is the result of vast numbers of such events, orchestrated in an appropriate way so as to provide an actual conscious experience (Orch-OR).
A Comfortable Grave
"New Mexico" by George St Clair
Frank Field Lecture
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