ICCHS has a diverse research student community. Several of our current PhD projects are featured below:
Title: Photographs in Holocaust Exhibitions: Contexts and Functions
This PhD project builds upon existing literature discussing the visual representation of the Holocaust by investigating the use of photographs in Holocaust exhibitions. Photography’s perceived transparency combines with the institutional authority of the museum to create a powerful mode of representation used to create a particular iconography of the Holocaust, tailored to a specific narrative of the events. Institutions use photographs as tools to encourage certain individual and collective responses such as emotional reactions, the acquisition of factual knowledge, and the reinforcing of a normative narrative. The overuse of iconic images and an apparent reluctance to exhibit more incongruous, unfamiliar photographs seems to indicate that the main use of images in the display context is to establish and then maintain a particular narrative of the Holocaust. By analysing exhibitions at case studies in the UK and Germany, I hope to pose questions about the nature of presentation of photographs in Holocaust exhibitions, acknowledge the multiple narratives within the exhibition space, and engage with the ways in which photographs inform and influence these narratives.
Title: The contribution of small-scale rural festivals to the social sustainability of their host communities: a case study approach in Northumberland
My research focuses on investigating the impact which small-scale, rural festivals may have upon the social sustainability of their host communities. There has been a considerable rise in the number and variety of festivals in the UK, particularly post 1980. Whilst some events have been strategically motivated and supported, many others exist ‘below the radar’ of funding bodies and policy makers. Economic evaluation has been the predominant focus of research from within academia and the industry itself, arguably missing the social potential of festivals and in particular their contribution to the sustainability of their hosting communities.
Through a case study approach of four festivals in Northumberland I consider the potential connectivity which festivals may enable with cultural heritage, place and between individuals and groups. Theories of belonging and identity are considered and the concept of community explored. Within the framework of seeking to measure festival social impact on a community the research considers themes of consistency and innovation as components of sustainability.
Title: The Construction of Culture[s]: How Artist-Run Initiatives Construct Culture[s]
I submitted myAHRC sponsored PhDin September 2014, and my viva examination is scheduled to take place in early 2015.My thesis drew upon three case studies - 85A, Glasgow, Empty Shop, Durham and The Mutual, Glasgow - and brought together literature from a number of disciplines, including cultural sociology, the sociology of art, identity theory and educational research, to explore the ways in which certain kinds of 'art' and 'artist' were legitimated through members lived experience of membership, identity-work and ongoing learning. Demonstrating the fundamentally local production of meaning and value, and constructions of 'art' and 'artists', the thesis calls for renewed critical interest in artist-run initiatives as a key site of cultural production, and for an approach to the sociology of art that takes seriously the potent emotional content of belonging and identity-work.
Title: How does Flickr The Commons support community engagement and what are the implications for the development and understanding of the photographic collections?
My research analyses the extent to which image-sharing website Flickr The Commons supports community engagement and the effect this has not only on the featured photographic collections, but also on the wider practices of the participating cultural institutions."
Title: Looking beyond ‘The Angel’: Framing and interpreting a public art collection in Newcastle-Gateshead
Antony Gormley’s ‘The Angel of the North’ (1998) may be the UK’s most famous public sculpture, but Newcastle-Gateshead is also home to 170+ other permanent public artworks. Borrowing from work in the gallery, museum and heritage sector my PhD research takes Newcastle-Gateshead as a case study to explore how collection and interpretation theory may relate to the situated context of public art. To date the term ‘collection’ is not one that has been commonly connected to public art practice in the UK. In focusing on this term in my own study the aim is not to claim that Newcastle-Gateshead’s public artworks constitute a collection in a conscious or coherent institutional sense. Instead it offers the idea of collection as way of focusing attention on the material and cultural legacy and post-commissioning aspects of public art production, in particular on its on-going interpretation and audiencing.
My study asks the question: Can the 170+ public artworks physically sited in Newcastle-Gateshead be framed as a ‘collection’ and what new possibilities does this framing suggest for curators, commissioners and audiences?
Title: Haunted Hospitals: An examination of the role of place attachment in the reuse of former, historic asylums
The research seeks to investigate the hypothesis that place attachment is a barrier to the development and re-use of Victorian asylums, as heritage buildings. As a functioning institution, the Victorian asylum was a feared place, symbolising the segregation of the mentally ill from normal society. Yet, as Franklin (2002) argues, the negative perceptions of the asylum have eased, to be replaced by an appreciation of its built form, and perhaps even a certain romance associated with the asylum as a place of recuperation, following the large-scale closures at the end of the twentieth century. It is for this reason that former asylums, subsequently re-named and redeployed as hospitals during the twentieth century, provide an ideal case study for a research project examining the phenomena of place attachment and heritage redevelopment of major institutional sites in the UK. Place attachment and its relationship with the environment has been explored quite extensively in recent literature on environmental psychology and cultural geography (Cresswell 2004; Scannell & Gifford, 2009, Rollero & de Piccoli 2010). In public history, the continuing significance of place and locality has attracted considerable attention in the context of globalisation (Driver and Samuel, 1995). However, less attention has been paid to the relationship between heritage, place attachment and the built environment, and it is to this field that the research is designed to make its main contribution.
Title: Exploring the Complexities of Museum-school Interactions and Examining the Interface between Museum Educators and School Teachers
Based on findings from my research into school-museum interactions and the interrelationships between teachers and museum educators, this project identifies and describes the function of the ‘interjective’ - an intervention (by teacher, educator, or child) during a museum-school experience that appears at first seemingly disconnected from the central object of activity, but its overall function is to strengthen the overall success in achieving the goal of the activity. It does this by providing a contrast (by way of mediating through an interject) between the object of activity and the subject at hand.Successfully mediating by way of an interject requires a certain set of behaviours: strong forms of complementary expertise, the ability to display successful boundary practice working and the ability to navigate across and within unfamiliar institutional shelters.Does an interject need to be unexpected? What set of processes need to be understood to allow space for the interjective to take place? This research explores how an interjective might be delivered unexpectedly, and appear seemingly disconnected, but the skill of the educator and teacher will allow success of its delivery through a shared developed understanding of the required processes that allow for strong forms of complementary expertise to develop. The result is a set of behaviours unique to the ‘interjectivist’ museum educator and teacher where they identify themselves as powerful agents of educational change.
Title: Designing and implementing successful donor funded tourism projects in Myanmar, a country emerging from half a century of military rule: How do projects successfully engage with host country stakeholders to maximise target community benefits? An analysis of the benefits of donor funded projects designed to bring responsible and sustainable tourism to Myanmar
Donor funded tourism projects have been widely implemented across South East Asia with a variety of results. My research analyses stakeholder engagement in such projects in Myanmar: have lessons learned from other regional developing countries been implemented in Myanmar?
My thesis will gather data from action research obtained during two research projects in Myanmar undertaken for the Myanmar Institute for Integrated Development. It builds around two case studies: a larger study of the development of Myanmar's first Destination Management Plan for the Inlay Lake Region (Shan State) and a smaller study of developing tourism input to the Chin State Development Plan. In addition, key perceptions of "industry leaders", civil society and government are interviewed to gain a deeper understanding into whether the lessons learned from other developing nations are being implemented in Myanmar.
Working title: An examination of the political and institutional dynamics of the production of interpretation in contemporary museums of art
My research studies the way in which the production of interpretation in contemporary museums and galleries is influenced, shaped and affected by changing institutional processes – and how this affects understanding and knowledge of art.
Traditionally, the roles of ‘curator’ and ‘educator’ have been divided into distinct departments within art museums, with curators being responsible for some types of interpretation, such as wall texts, and educators responsible for others, such as materials for teachers and family visitors. However, some museums of art are taking a more collaborative approach to producing interpretative materials. I am examining what motivates this shift in practice and how it affects the representation, understanding and experience of art.
The project aims to address two primary questions:
These questions are being explored through qualitative research at three museums of art in the UK, the US and in the Netherlands.
Title: Finding an ecomuseum ideal for Hainan Province: Encouraging community participation in intangible cultural and natural heritage protection in a rural setting in China
My research examines the current ecomuseum development in Hainan Province, China, asking how the use of ecomuseum principles could support the local population in safeguarding their intangible cultural and natural heritage and in developing sustainable tourism. It explores the attitudes towards heritage protection and tourism development of the three main stakeholders in ecomuseum development in Hainan, namely, the government, heritage experts and the local population. The research is in particular interested in analysing ways for community participation in heritage protection in a top-down development context such as China. It examines the opportunities and challenges the ecomuseums in Hainan will encounter. The research aims to contribute towards making heritage protection and community participation in Hainan Province more effective and to develop a new set of ecomuseum guidelines for developing countries.
Title: Engaging with Outdoor Heritage though Smartphone based Mobile Digital Interpretations
This research aims to advance studies on the heritage experience and explicitly deepen our understanding of the influence contemporary adoption of smartphone based mobile digital interpretations have within the engagement process. Engagement at outdoor heritage sites is an embodied sensuous experience, producing empathetic connections and enabling emotive responses, and the introduction of smartphone based mobile digital interpretations will influence this practice. Previous studies pertaining to mobile digital interpretations within heritage environments have been predominantly assessed by quantifiable measures and device-centred approaches. The result is a deficiency of theoretical and qualitative understanding in relation to this practice, which this research seeks to address. Whilst advancing knowledge of the engagement practice, the study, through participatory action research and critical assessment of the appositeness of smartphone based digital interpretations, has significant importance in its potential to shape the future development of mobile digital interpretations, towards more engagement-centric design.
Working title: Community Governance of Public Museum: An examination of process, policy enactment and professional identity
This research aims to explore emerging models of local authority museum management, with a particular focus on their connection to the localism of the UK’s Coalition Government and previous policies under the New Labour administrations that have increased the role of the voluntary and community sectors in the landscape of public service delivery. Responding to a paucity of empirical work detailing the different governance structures available to local authority museums, this project will explore the prospects for community ownership and management of museum assets in the future.
Through the empirical sites chosen for this project, particular attention will be paid to how the process of transfer itself is experienced and how relationships between the community organisation and the local authority are brokered as the new governance structure emerges. By employing empirical techniques such as interviewing and meeting observation alongside a desk-based assessment of policy documents and academic texts, I will ask questions such as: in what different ways has localism manifested itself in the local authority museums sector? What level of decision-making power in permitted to these groups? How is responsibility for museum assets (buildings and collections) established in these organisational hybrids? Given the continuing support for these agendas from central government, a detailed and interpretive understanding of these processes and relationships is needed to enable effective support of these groups by development and funding organisations and by the museum profession itself.
Title: How do museums of modern art in North-West Europe construct the public history of ‘contemporary art’ through their collecting activities?
My research examines how museums of modern art have adapted their collecting activity to adequately account for developments in ‘contemporary art’, in response to globalised markets,
challenges to the canon, and diversification of artists’ media and modes of production.
Title: Faith in displays: an analysis on the changes in the representations of Islamic art in Western Museums
The attacks of 9/11 forever altered the image of Islam but led to the growing interest in Islamic art. Subsequent terrorist activities coupled with the rise of Islamophobia and nativism in Europe provide a challenging landscape for museums in constructing representations of Islam and Muslims. For the past decade since 9/11, several museums with extensive collections in Islamic art had been undertaking redevelopment projects for their Islamic galleries. This research analyses the changes in the contemporary redisplay of Islamic art collections in European museums. It further focuses on investigating similarities and differences on the representations of Islamic art in European museums in relation to the current socio-political context. The research formed on a basis that each of European countries has a rather unique historical relationship with Islam, a different governmental policy on cultural diversity and social relations, and even a distinct Muslim demographics. More importantly, with the number of Muslims in Europe is projected to increase significantly, amid issues on integration and identity, what effects this phenomenon has on future representations of Islamic art?
Title: Heritage Visitors’ Experience and Interpretation: Xi’an Case Study
I intended to identify the characteristics of heritage visitors and factors that influence their visiting experiences, and then worked out strategies to enhance heritage visitors’ experience by doing an empirical study in Xi’an, China. The profile of heritage visitors in Xi’an was worked out. The factors that influenced their visiting experiences were identified. The relationship between visitors’ experience and interpretation were studied. Similarities and differences between national and international visitors were compared. A model for predicting heritage visitors’ satisfaction scores was worked out based on my quantitative data analysis. Integrated with my qualitative data, I worked out a model for the improving of heritage visitors’ experience. It was hoped that the two models would help heritage and tourism managers know their visitors and improve their services. It was also hoped that this research would contribute to the sustainable development of heritage tourism in Xi’an.