Photo courtesy of Talia Perry.

Travel has long been an important component of a Bard Graduate Center education. All MA students have the option of going on a BGC-sponsored trip to Europe in the summer between their first and second years. Earlier this summer, students traveled to Paris for a weeklong study of museums and historic homes with professor Jeffrey Collins and assistant professor Mei Mei Rado and then continued to the Greek island of Despotiko for a week of archaeological study with professor Caspar Meyer.

BGC also supports student travel for individual research. These trips often provide students with their only firsthand experience of objects that are central to their qualifying papers or dissertations.

In February 2023, Talia Perry (MA ’23) traveled to England to visit Tudor chimneys in preparation for her qualifying paper titled “Rooftop Fancy and Folly: Tudor Chimney Stack as Device and Discourse.” Perry is a practicing architect, but as she said is common at BGC, her interests expanded during the course of her studies, in particular to include the history of technology and how changes in technology and material production alter social structures and the way people relate to each other.

In professor Andrew Morrall’s fall 2022 course, “The Arts of the Tudor Court,” Perry encountered a photograph of Tudor chimney stacks and wanted to know more. She found discussions of Tudor architecture or of English chimneys that gave glancing references to the stacks, but no scholarship on the subject of Tudor chimneys specifically. She knew she needed to see the structures in person.

During her weeklong trip, Perry saw thirteen Tudor chimneys. She woke at 6 am every morning and traveled by train and bus to various locales, trekking more than one hundred miles by the end of the week. She was able to get “up close and personal” with a few of the chimneys, including the tower stacks at both Framlingham Castle and Lambeth Palace (which she viewed by peering down at its rooftop from a neighboring church tower). Ironically, she hates heights and found herself practicing yoga breathing and inching along the sides of the walls at many of these sites.

The Student Travel and Research Fund covered Perry’s plane ticket and some of her hotel stays. She was very frugal and stretched the budget so that she could see a variety of chimneys stacks during her short trip. According to Perry, “It was really important to me to see the chimneys in person, in part because I was very interested in the lives of the craftspeople who constructed them and their handcrafted nature. Despite having access to a lot of images of the chimneys, the photographs are usually taken from far away and the focus is not on mortar joint or the texture of the brick.” She continued, “I felt I could not do the project justice without having seen the structures with my own eyes.”