University’s events aim to make ‘sense’ of the past.

Posted on 9th November 2017

Past landscapes are to be brought to life through an awakening of our senses, in a series of events run by the University of Chester’s Department of History and Archaeology.

•	The University will be joining the national festival Being Human, with its series of events ‘Sensing the Past.’
• The University will be joining the national festival Being Human, with its series of events ‘Sensing the Past.’

This year, the University will be joining the national festival Being Human, with its series of events ‘Sensing the Past’, where the University’s historians and archaeologists will be encouraging audiences to rediscover how people in the past smelt, touched, heard, saw and tasted their environment. Each event will be led by an expert and will have an interactive element based around sensory knowledge. From the sense of seeing and being seen in prehistoric landscapes, to the sounds of Chester and the role of touch in the botanic classroom, there will be something for everyone to get their senses into.

Organiser Dr Clare Hickman, Lecturer in History at the University of Chester, said: “Our senses enable us to participate in the world we live in – so it’s not surprising that the sensory experience of past landscapes can sometimes be lost on us. This year’s Being Human festival gives us a wonderful opportunity to bring the past to life through being able to explore those senses - seeing, smelling, touching, tasting and hearing our connections with the past.”

Being Human is an annual celebration of the humanities, which is run by the School of Advanced Study at the University of London. This year’s festival takes place between November 17 and 25 and aims to highlight the richness and vitality of humanities research and the ways it addresses the big questions facing society. It is run in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the British Academy. 

The events organised by the University of Chester are as follows:

Wednesday, November 22, 6pm at Storyhouse

Dr Hope’s Botanic Sensorium – led by Dr Clare Hickman, Lecturer in History at the University of Chester

Dr Clare Hickman and undergraduate history students from the University of Chester will re-enact and explore the botanic lectures given by Professor John Hope (King’s botanist for Scotland and Professor of Botany at Edinburgh Medical School) in his Edinburgh botanic garden in the 1760s. Accompanied by reproductions of illustrations created by John Hope's gardeners and artists based within the botanic garden, the session will also look at the role senses played in the teaching of Botany. Donna Young, Curator of the Herbarium of the World Museum Liverpool, will also be on hand with dried plant specimens and historic text books as well as her own botanic knowledge, so that the material culture of the botanic teaching room can be brought to life. As an interactive lecture, audience members will have the opportunity to try their hand at drawing dried plant specimens, thereby using their own senses to connect with botanic students of the past.

Friday, November 24, 6pm at Storyhouse

Navigating Prehistoric Landscapes – led by Dr Barry Taylor and Dr Amy Gray Jones, Senior Lecturers in Archaeology at the University of Chester

Dr Barry Taylor and Dr Amy Gray Jones will lead a virtual foraging expedition through the British landscape as it was at the end of the last Ice Age over 11,000 years ago. With the help of archaeological materials and stories from indigenous groups around the world, participants will learn how prehistoric people used their senses to navigate this landscape, all the while remaining in the safety of Storyhouse. As you walk in their footsteps, you will experience not only the sense of seeing and hearing these past landscapes, but also of being watched by the plants, animals and supernatural beings that inhabited it. When the expedition ends, you can also experience the sensations of working plant materials using replica prehistoric stone tools under the guidance of archaeologists and students from the University.

Throughout the festival, November 17 to 25, online:

Sounds of Chester – led by Dr Rebecca Andrew, Lecturer in Historic Landscapes and Environments

Sounds of Chester is a digital event running throughout the Being Human festival. What is the soundscape of modern Chester? What sounds can you find around the city today? Which sounds have been lost over time? This is an opportunity for people to reveal their lost and found sounds from around the city by recording them on a phone and sharing them online. You can also listen to and compare those recorded by others via Twitter. What can the Sounds of Chester tell us about the city’s history?

To participate online:

To book the events, which are free of charge, please visit:

More information about Being Human, and other events taking place throughout the country, can be found at: