Telling previously unknown or seldom told stories unearthed by recipients of its funding awards, one of six films charting a broad range of topics will be released each week from today.

Shot on location at venues including the British Museum and the British School at Rome, the short films – each no longer than six minutes to ensure maximum impact – have been conceived not only to highlight intriguing new research but to make the case for the importance of properly funded scholarship.

Last year the charity awarded £1,174,000 to individuals, institutions, organisations and publishers to progress a plethora of projects, and this year will be no different. The Autumn 2021 round of funding includes opportunities for applicants to seek grants supporting curatorial, digital and book projects, as well as individual research trips and public events.

Awards 2022 – News
A still from the Robert & James Adam’s Grand Tour Letters and Writings film showing Colin Thom and Adriano Aymonino at the Soane Museum

Thomas Becket: Murder and Making of a Saint is the first film to be released as part of the New Discoveries series. Sophie Kelly, project curator at the British Museum, tells the story of how, during preparations for the blockbuster Thomas Becket: Murder and Making of a Saint exhibition at the British Museum, staff discovered the panels of the ‘miracle’ Thomas Becket stained glass windows had been displayed in the wrong order for centuries.

By examining the windows close up, Leonie Seliger, director of the Stained Glass Studio at Canterbury Cathedral, discovered that a figure depicted in one panel had spots on his legs. Further research highlighted that the markings, previously thought to be signs of corrosion on the glass, were in fact spots of paint used to depict leprosy, correlating to a story of Becket curing a man with leprosy.

“The stories depicted in these windows are about people desperately searching for healing, and during a year where we’ve been searching for a solution to a global pandemic, I’ve really felt a connection through 800 years of history,” notes Kelly, whose work was supported by a Paul Mellon Centre Curatorial Research Grant.

Another film has been produced by filmmaker and researcher Ed Webb-Ingall, the recipient of a Paul Mellon Centre Postdoctoral Fellowship. Video Activism before the Internet helps to resurface forgotten AIDS activist videos in the UK, highlighting the ways in which misrepresented and underrepresented groups harnessed newly available video technology in the 1980s to film their own experiences.

The film shares Webb-Ingall’s journey to discovering 18 forgotten AIDS activist videos and the ongoing work to make the maximum number available through the London Community Video Archive.

“I don’t want this just to be archival work,” the filmmaker urges, “anything engaged in the histories of activism needs to continue to be engaged in the present moment of activism.”

What's on?

Further videos in the New Discoveries series are:

Pioneering Women at the Heart of the Royal Society of Sculptors, Rosamund Lily West, filmed at the Royal Society of Sculptors, London

Robert & James Adam’s Grand Tour Letters and Writings, Colin Thom and Adriano Aymonino, filmed at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London

Robert Turnbull Macpherson and his Photographic Vedute of Rome, Wilfried E. Keil, filmed at the British School at Rome

Amusing, Interesting and Curious: A Study of English Paper Peepshows, Shijia Yu, filmed via Zoom

The Paul Mellon Centre is currently accepting submissions for its Autumn 2021 round of funding opportunities, with the deadline for applications on 30th September. More information on the application process and eligibility can be found here.

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