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‘Getting to know you’ Simo Muir

Tell us about your role in PtJA
I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the project, and my research topic has been artistic and cultural reactions to the Holocaust in Finland. Besides my own research, I have been updating the project website, editing our newsletter, and planning and implementing with my colleagues a database that will contain all the research material and results from the project. I have also been a member of our festival committees, and I have assisted our film crew in finalizing videos for our website. 

What were you doing before working on PtJA?   
I was working in a three year Academy of Finland funded research project called ‘Silences of History’ at the University of Helsinki. This project was about Finland’s relation to the Holocaust, how the Holocaust has been dealt with in Finnish history writing during the Cold War. Before that I was working at the National Archives of Finland cataloguing the Finnish Jewish Archives. 

What’s the best thing about working on a project like PtJA?
There are many excellent things in a big project like this: you get to know many new researchers and make international contacts. I have had wonderful colleagues from whom I have learned many new skills. Besides, the funding has made it possible to prepare a lot of performances, to have my own research material performed on several continents by various fantastic artists and students, which is quite extraordinary.

What do you get the most satisfaction from professionally?
I like working on topics that haven’t been researched earlier, finding historical documents that no-one has seen before. I really get satisfaction from working on such documents and seeing the results of it, be it an article, a book or a performance. In PtJA it has been fantastic to see the whole process, how an artefact from an archive has made it to theatres and concert halls in Sydney, Prague, Madison, Leeds, York and Cape Town. 

What’s the biggest challenge for you on this project?
I think the biggest challenge has been multitasking, trying to concentrate on research, to ponder various new theories, and at the same time plan festivals and produce material for performances, and to try to keep up with the daily routine of reading and writing emails and practical administrative work. 

Outside of work, what are your interests and hobbies?
I like doing things with my hands, like woodworking and painting. This is something that I have learned from my father, who worked as an antique restorer. It has been a bit challenging for the last few years because of not having proper facilities and space to do that. I am also interested in family history and I can spend hours studying old registers and documents.   

Outside of work, what are the top things on your ‘bucket list’?
I have already for a long time done research about my Scottish side of family, and I would like to visit the villages where my family has lived in Ayrshire, and generally to explore more of Scotland. I would also like to mend an old Georgian grandfather clock from Montrose which I bought when I moved to UK. It still needs quite a lot of work, starting with restoring the clock face with a painting of Queen Mary of Scots fleeing from Loch Lomond.   

If you were stranded on a desert island what three things would you want with you?
The three things I would like to have would be a surfing board, a wet suit and sun cream. I took a surfing course with my colleagues at Bondi Beach in Australia, and I would really like to have another go at learning surfing.   

And finally, the PtJA team are very sad that you are leaving the project at the end of December 2017.  Tell us, what amazing opportunity has tempted you away from the joys of working on PtJA?! 
I have been granted an Honorary Research Fellow post at the UCL Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies. During 2018 I will be working on a Finnish Academy funded project called Roma and Nordic Societies. I am really pleased that the University of Leeds has grated me a reward under the University’s Recognition Scheme for my contribution for the project. The three years in Leeds have been amazing and I will miss my PtJA colleagues.

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