Summer internships: Beyond the Spectacle with Marta Klimkowicz

The School of English hosts many major research projects, pushing the boundaries of what we know about literature. Every year, we invite our students to apply for summer internships on some of the research projects in the School. On their internships, our students get the opportunity to conduct high-level, cutting-edge research with the help of our experienced academic staff.

In this series of blog posts, some of our interns from the 2021 Summer School reflect on their experience. The first student is Marta Klimkowicz, who interned on Beyond the Spectacle: Native North American Presence in Great Britain. This project, led by Professor David Stirrup, aims to discover how, when and why Native American people visited Great Britain in the first few centuries after Europeans made it to America.

MA English and American Literature student, Martha Klimkowicz, shares her experience:

“This summer I interned for Beyond The Spectacle project, researching Iroquois lacrosse tours in England in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. My goal was to create a storymap unfolding the story of the tour in a visual format highlighting the game locations. My task was to dive into the archives and list the locations with coordinates to facilitate creating the map. I was also picking up any interesting details that may be worth including – from the game results to any additional activities, like theatre visits.

This internship has caught my attention due to my interest in Indigenous writing, which I am exploring in my MA dissertation. While I am not focusing on sports or anything remotely related to the tours, I believe the more I learn about Native American experience and history, the more nuanced my understanding of the subject will be, so I was excited about the project.

The internship has been an opportunity to develop my research skills. Since my experience so far largely focused on literary texts and secondary sources around them, it was exciting to dive into an online newspaper archive to search for information on the lacrosse tours. I got to face some of the challenges of this process, such as trying to decipher worn out print. However, I was also thrilled about the sense of immediacy coming through the articles about the events that have been buried in the past for so long. In addition to using the archive, I had do further research to find coordinates for game locations. While in many cases it was easy to simply look up the grounds, some of them have moved or do not exist anymore, which required digging a lot deeper to find where they used to be.

My knowledge of lacrosse had been very superficial, so I was surprised to find out that it was originally a Native American sport. It was only in 1867 that Canadians decided to adapt and codify it, and made it their national sport. The tours in 1876 and 1883 involved the Iroquois and Canadian teams travelling together, playing exhibition matches across the UK to introduce and promote the game in Britain. With good effect, I may add – the press coverage suggests that the first tour led to many UK clubs forming, and indeed some games between the visitors and local teams were arranged in addition to the exhibition games.

But promoting the sport of lacrosse was the only purpose of the tour. Canada also wanted to promote the colony and encourage emigration. The irony is particularly striking in coverage of a post-game banquet in Belfast, where Canadian guests spoke of empty lands just waiting for people to come and make them prosper – as if the rightful owners of those lands were not right there with them. Well, in fact they weren’t quite there as it was only the Canadian team who attended the banquet. The colonial past is ever present – even when it comes to sports.”