In summer 2012 I was awarded an Undergraduate Research Scholarship by the College of Arts and Law to assist Dr Elizabeth L’Estrange on a research project entitled: Manuscript Illumination and Sixteenth-Century Franco-Flemish Art. I worked with Elizabeth on her project for five weeks, including a few days in Belgium to see the manuscript in question. The research project focused on a little known Book of Hours housed at the University of Liège that has been linked to the sixteenth-century atelier of artist Noël Bellemare. The Book of Hours contains extremely high quality miniatures and borders in the style of the school of Fontainebleau.

The scholarship centred on examining possible sources and interpretations of the manuscript. I researched the compositions of the miniatures, the frames, the script and even the binding to find precedents and links to other manuscript production. Each week I took a different approach in order to experience several ways of researching. These approaches ranged from analysing the book as a whole in comparison to other high quality books of hours at the time, such as the Hours of Anne of Austria, to analysing the images in depth and seeing if several hands in the one manuscript could be identified.

Illuminated page from a Franco-Flemish Book of Hours depicting the adoration of the magi

I have benefited from the scholarship immensely. I have gained confidence in my research skills as throughout the scholarship I pursued my own lines of enquiry and gained experience in building up bibliographies from several different libraries. Working with Elizabeth has been a very valuable experience and I feel the scholarship has given me an invaluable insight into the methods of academic research. I enjoyed being able to discuss ideas and the development of the project with a specialist in the period of art that I am interested in. Travelling to Belgium to be able to see the manuscript we were working on in the flesh was also extremely useful to my research. I understood the manuscript more deeply and I was also able to consult literature that I was not able to get hold of in England. I met with scholars in the field and saw how discussions between researchers advanced the project.

During the scholarship I was also able to practice my language skills. As a student of French Studies and History of Art, the scholarship proved valuable for both sides of my degree. I often consulted French sources and during my stay in Belgium I experienced research in French speaking institutions.

The scholarship has made me even more interested in the field of academic research. I have found researching extremely interesting and have enjoyed how different it can be to undergraduate study. The scholarship has made me want to continue studying in order to pursue my own research projects. I would thoroughly recommend applying for an undergraduate research scholarship, it has given me an understanding of the professional world of academic research and I have developed skills that are both important for my degree and my future career.