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Relief models

The art of earth-building: Placing relief models in the culture of modern geography

RGS-IBG - George Tobin (September 2017 start; University of Glasgow: PI Dr Hayden Lorimer and Dr Simon Naylor)

The studentship will develop a historical geography of the relief model as a key component of modern geographical research and teaching, making use of a unique set of solid plasterwork models held in the RGS collections, as well as establishing the extent and health of a dispersed “archive” of surviving relief models in British university geography departments and schools today. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the relief model developed alongside a repertoire of techniques for diagrammatic, photographic and cartographic reproduction. The project will examine relief models as an educational and instructional aid, on display in universities and school classrooms, used variously to: illustrate the emergence (and denudation) of surface landforms; explain the nature of geophysical, hydrological, fluvial and coastal processes; reveal subsurface geological structures; and, show differing kinds of human response to environmental setting. Through a combination of archival research, biographical inquiries and material culture studies, the project will place geographical relief models, and the unheralded work of the relief modeler and commercial supplier, amid wider cultures of popular science and pedagogy.

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