This year, facilitating the Romantic Illustration Network has taught me three things: be ready shift furniture and sweep floors at 9am in your best conference jacket; never underestimate the importance of the well-timed tea break; and the most important work is often done in the pub after the symposium, so always choose a good watering-hole and book a large table. It’s been a great pleasure developing the Network and getting to know the regulars and the new faces who attend each event. I’ve become familiar with the inside workings of the British Academy, the Tate, and the House of Illustration, and I now have a really good sense of the goals and constraints of what are often loosely termed ‘heritage organisations’. It’s exciting to see, particularly after our recent event on Saturday June 6th, how our convivial gatherings, individual research papers, and gallery tours are actually building towards an understanding of shared interests and emerging research questions. Intellectually the awareness of a shared agenda and new theoretical approaches is growing, and alongside this, there is now a real sense of the Network as a collaborative international team of scholars. I hope we can continue to build on this. The great strength of the network is, I think, that relationships have been built both in person and virtually. The website and blog goes from strength to strength, with more than 6700 views in over 25 countries. We are currently developing a digitised gallery of 18th century prints of scenes from Shakespeare, courtesy of a generous donation from Frederick Burwick at UCLA. These beautiful high-definition images will be ready for the Shakespeare 2016 commemorations. I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch with network members via the blog: I post news of CFPs and events, but also useful resources and members’ research: ‘Image of the Month’ is a popular series of posts. RIN members are a collegiate bunch. The Network events have shaped my own research in unexpected ways: I never imagined I’d write a scholarly article about Dickens’s chair, for example. Most importantly, they have been great fun: as someone said to me at the recent symposium, ‘Why don’t we do this every week?’. Why don’t we, indeed.
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