A Fine Line: J. A. Betts and the Study of Drawing at the University of Reading

This UROP placement will provide essential support for preliminary research on an exhibition project, provisionally titled ‘A Fine Line: Master Drawings from Rubens to Sickert’, set to be hosted in the Madejski Gallery in Reading Museum. The exhibition will unveil the hidden history of University’s collection of master drawings.

Department: University Museums and Special Collections Services

Supervised by: Dr Naomi Lebens

The Placement Project

Professor J. Anthony Betts (1897-1980) amassed a teaching collection of master drawings for the University of Reading in the 1950s. An exhibition showcasing this significant collection for the first time, including works by Rubens, Whistler and Sickert, is scheduled to take place at Reading Museum in 2020. One avenue of the exhibition’s inquiry will be the history of Betts himself. Little is currently known about Betts and this UROP placement will provide crucial research support to the exhibition team by compiling the available information across a variety of sources. It is envisaged that at least the first two weeks of the UROP project will be dedicated to putting together a full bibliography of available sources. One important, underexplored resource is contemporary newspaper articles available on-line and in the archives at the British Library. This work would also include putting together a list of Betts’ known students and identifying possible candidates for interview (if possible, to be arranged during the period of the placement). A short biographical essay on Betts, written in the last week of the placement, would be the final outcome of this research. Under the guidance of the Curator, a second key element of the UROP placement will be to work through the University’s significant, uncatalogued archive relating to Betts’ working practice and to select notable examples based on preliminary research. As well as contributing to the development of an exciting exhibition project, this placement will help to illuminate a hard-to-access collection and little-known aspect of University history.


- Bibliographical research - Archival research - Collections-based research - Biographical essay writing - Artist interviews (tbc)

Skills, knowledge and experience required

- Excellent English writing skills - Attention to detail - Knowledge of how to use libraries and online resources for research purposes (i.e. compiling a bibliography) - The ability to work independently and as part of a team - Keen interest in art/history (students enrolled in humanities programmes preferred) - An interest in how research is communicated to the public through exhibitions - Excellent IT skills - Time management and organizational skills

Skills which will be developed during the placement

- Skills in collections-based research and object handling - Skills in archival research, using online databases and national libraries - Skills in compiling research bibliographies - Skills in conducting literature reviews - Analytical skills - Written communication skills - Skills in preparing and conducting interviews (tbc)

Place of Work

There will be work space available on arrangement at UMASCS in St Andrew’s Hall. Dates for collections-based working at UMASCS will be arranged in advance. The student will also be expected to carry out independent research in libraries and archives, principally The British Library.

Hours of Work

The are no set hours and the UROP student will arrange a flexible working schedule with Dr Naomi Lebens. They will be required to keep a log of hours worked over the course of the placement.

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Friday 01 June 2018 - Sunday 30 September 2018

How to Apply

The post will be advertised centrally on the UROP website between 19th February and 29th March 2018. Students should send a cover letter explaining their interest in, and suitability for, the role (max 500 words) and a one-page CV to

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