Who’s Who: Susie West

Who are you and what do you do at the OU? What modules are you involved in/have been involved in?

I am Susie West and I am Senior Lecturer in Art History and Heritage. I have contributed to our current modules A111, A226, A843 and A844; in the past, I have worked on Understanding Global Heritage (AD281), Voices, Texts and Material Culture (A105), and its predecessor A151, and Heritage, Whose Heritage? (A181). 

What got you interested in Art History?

It wasn’t what I expected to do, as I was passionate about archaeology and that was my undergraduate degree. However, I was also influenced by my dad’s interest in historic architecture (he really liked the eighteenth-century architecture of Robert Adam) and I realised that I could study surviving buildings as part of my course, not just ruins underground. Historic buildings specialists use lots of methods shared with archaeologists as well as art historians, it turns out. 

What are your main research areas?

I research British architectural history, particularly 1600-1800 and the English country house; my heritage studies interests mean that I also think about how we look after historic buildings and their landscapes today. 

What Open Arts Objects films have you done? Are they related to your research or a module?

So far I have made two Open Arts Objects films, the first is about St Michael’s Church, at Walton Hall. It is a church that has changed its function, to become part of the OU campus, and it relates to my current research as part of an AHRC project on how communities use historic religious buildings (Empowering Through Design, lead by my Design Group colleagues); I have also written about medieval churches for A226, ‘Exploring art and visual culture’. The second film looks at the historic gardens of Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, which I have researched as part of my work on the De Grey family and their houses at Wrest Park (they rebuilt their medieval house); I have also written about the gardens for A226. My Critical Terms film, Commemoration (see below), with Leah Clark, discusses how ideas about commemoration can be found within art history and heritage studies. 

What did you love most about doing an Open Arts Objects film?

I really like getting outside to be surrounded by the historic building or landscape that I am thinking about, I find it so refreshing to see the play of light on a surface and hear the sounds of particular places. 

What is your most significant publication or latest publication? How does it relate to the films?

I’m going to choose something not very obvious, which is an article about a lost country house, one I can’t visit although if I had a time machine I would love to be able to assess my suggestions for how it looked. I could also meet its owner, and probable designer, the author Lady Mary Wroth, and I would ask her to show me her library. I used archives and methods more usually used by archaeologists and economic historians to reconstruct Lady Mary’s material environment. 

West, Susie (2016). Finding Wroth’s Loughton Hall. Sidney Journal, 34(1) pp. 15–32.  

For more information about my publications and research interests, please see my OU people profile.


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