Professor Christopher Whitehead
Professor of Museology


I joined the Centre in July 2002. Prior to this, I worked as a curator, a lecturer in Art History and sometime languages teacher, translator and interpreter in the UK, in Italy and in the US.

Roles and Responsibilities

- Member of the Great North Museum Board

- Member of the University Cultural Affairs Steering Group

- Member of the Hatton Gallery Steering Group and Capital Development Group

- ICCHS Senior tutor

- REF co-ordinator 



- BA in Art History (University of Leicester)
- MA in Museum Studies (University of Leicester)
- PhD in Art History and Theory (Perfezionamento in Storia della Critica d'Arte) (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa)
- Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (Newcastle University)


Museums and Galleries History Group (


Fluent Italian; reading skills in French and Spanish.

Research Interests

I publish in the field of museum history and theory, with particular emphases on architecture, display, knowledge construction and interpretation. In the context of museological study I have strong interests in learning theory, social constructionism, theories of representation, cultural cartography, time and place, co-production, art theory, disciplinarity and epistemology. My latest single-author monograph is a book on interpreting art in museums and galleries (Routledge 2012:

I am currently managing the Newcastle University work package of the EU FP7 'MELA' project: European Museums and Libraries in/of the Age of Migrations - a 2.7 million euro award working with 8 other institutions across Europe, led by the Politecnico di Milano ( In this context I am busy researching how museum representations articulate the relationships between places, cultures and identities in Europe. The monograph Placing Migration in Museums: methodological and theoretical orientations (co-authored with Susannah Eckersley and Rhiannon Mason) can be read or downloaded free at and over the next few years I will be co-authoring a number of other books to disseminate this research.

I have developing interests in: representations and constructions of time in museums; museums and migration; European identities; and Turkish museum cultures. Having lived, studied and worked for many years in Italy I also have a persistent interest in Italian museums and cultural heritage. I am working towards a monograph on the significance of time and place in heritage representations.

I run the Newcastle University interdisciplinary research group on the Cultural Significance of Place ( and I am, or have been, an investigator on various RCUK and other grants. These include 'Contemporary Visual Art and Identity Construction - wellbeing amongst older people', funded by the cross-council 'New Dynamics of Aging' scheme and ''Art on Tyneside': redeveloping a permanent display about art, place and identity', which led to the development of the new 'Northern Spirit' permanent display at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne ( My grant award work is undertaken with research teams and colleagues from ICCHS at Newcastle University in collaboration with museums, galleries and other agencies. It often involves working with communities of visitors and non-visitors and qualitative analyses of people's cultural experiences.

I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College (Academic) and a series editor (with Peter Stone and Peter Davis) of the 'Heritage Matters' book series published by Boydell and Brewer. I was a founder member of the Museums and Galleries History Group, which I chaired from 2002-7; ( From 2007 until 2011 I was a managing editor of Museum and Society; I am currently on the editorial Boards of Museum and Society, Museum History Journal and the Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy.

Postgraduate Supervision

I am currently supervising doctoral research relating to topics such as:

- artist-run initiatives (Emma Coffield)

- institutional approaches to art museum interpretation (Jen Locke)

- Interpreting public art as civic collection (Rebecca Farley)

- Flickr The Commons and community engagement with historic photography collections (Bronwen Colquhoun)

I have supervised Claire Pike, Susannah Eckersley, Gabriella Petkova, Pamela Erskine-Loftus, Alex Elwick and Yun-ju Chen, all of whom have successfully completed their PhDs.

I am  interested in supervising doctoral students wishing to work on:

  • museum and gallery history
  • interpretation in art museums and galleries
  • museum epistemology
  • cultural cartography
  • representations and experiences of time and place, place identities
  • museums and the EU
  • museums and migration
  • museums and cultural heritage in Italy
  • museums and cultural heritage in Turkey
  • museums and postcoloniality
  • museums and contemporary social conflicts and tensions


I am/have been an investigator on the following projects:

- 'the roles of museums/libraries for promoting a real democratic EU citizenship "in the age of migration"' (MELA consortium, Work package 1), EU FP7, overall value 2.6 million euros

- Contemporary visual art and identity construction - wellbeing amongst older people. Value: £250,795.

- 'Art on Tyneside': redeveloping a permanent display about art, place and identity at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle. This is funded through the AHRC's one-off Museums, Galleries, Libraries and Archives Research Grants. Value: £345,637.

- En-quire national research programme, which has the aim of exploring, assessing and articulating the special learning benefits to young people of working with contemporary art and the gallery space. The project is funded by DCMS and DfES and managed by Engage, the national organisation for gallery education in association with the Arts Council of England. Value: £50,000 (

- Five Arts Cities research project (funded by Arts Council England and Channel 5) to investigate the impact on older visitors of participation in gallery events. Value: £3,000

- Artists' Insights research project (funded by Arts Council England and the Museums Libraies and Archives Council) into the practices, and the learning outcomes and impact, of writers and visual artists working with young people and educators/facilitators in cultural sites and schools. Value: £50,000


art curatorship; knowledge construction; epistemology; display; art interpretation; museum history; social constructionism; disciplinarity; cultural cartography; place; Bourdieu; Turkey; Italy; migration; EU.

I contribute to the compulsory modules on the postgraduate programmes of the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies and have special responsibility for leading the Art Museum and Gallery Studies programme. In previous years I have run, or contributed to, various undergraduate art history modules, teaching in areas such as museum history, Italian Renaissance and attitudes to landscape in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.