Professor Christopher Whitehead
Professor of Museology


I joined the University in July 2002. Prior to this, I worked as a museum 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

In the past I have been Director of ICCHS, Director of Research for the School of Arts and Cultures and was the first head of Media, Culture, Heritage



- BA in Art History (University of Leicester), 1993
- MA in Museum Studies (University of Leicester), 1994
- PhD in Art History and Theory (Perfezionamento in Storia della Critica d'Arte) (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa), 1999
- Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (Newcastle University), 2003



Museums and Galleries History Group


Fluent Italian; improving Turkish; reading skills in French and Spanish.

Research Interests

I trained and worked as an art historian and art curator, but my research activities today are much broader, encompassing museums of different types (especially history museums) and heritage, with particular emphases on the cultural politics of memory, display, knowledge construction and interpretation. I am currently working on political uses of the past, time and place and contested histories and heritages, especially where these relate to contemporary social tensions and conflict. I have interests in social constructionism, theories of representation, cultural cartography, art theory, epistemology and Turkish, Italian and (more recently) Scandinavian museum and heritage politics. 

I co-ordinate the EU-funded CoHERE project, a €2.5million Horizon 2020 study into European Heritages and Identities working with 11 other organisations across Europe.

Before this I managed the Newcastle University work package of the EU FP7 'MELA' project: European Museums and Libraries in/of the Age of Migrations - a €2.7million euro award working with 8 other institutions across Europe, led by the Politecnico di Milano (  Publications can be accessed at

Alongside these activities I maintain research interests in the general areas covered in my monographs on the 19th Century Art Museum (Ashgate 2005), Museums and the Construction of Disciplines (Bloomsbury 2009) and Interpreting Art in Museums and Galleries (Routledge 2012). My most recent book is the edited volume Museums, Migration and Identity in Europe (Ashgate 2015).

With my colleague Dr Emma Coffield I run the Newcastle University interdisciplinary research group on the Cultural Significance of Place. Please contact me or Emma ( if you wish to be added to the mailing list. 

I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College (Academic) and a series editor (with Professor Peter Stone and Professor Peter Davis) of the Heritage Matters book series published by Boydell and Brewer. I am on the editorial Boards of Museum and SocietyMuseum History Journal, the Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy and Curator: the Museum Journal.

Postgraduate Supervision

I am currently supervising the following doctoral research projects:

- Institutional approaches to art museum interpretation (Jen Locke)

- Interpreting public art as civic collection (Rebecca Farley)

- Constructions of the public history of ‘contemporary art’ through the collecting activities of north-western-European museums of modern art (Alistair Robinson)

- Faith in displays: an analysis of the changes in the representation of Islamic art in Western Museums (Muhammad Ilmam Bin Tharazi)

- Place attachment and heritage activism as a barrier to the redevelopment and re-use of historic buildings: the re-use of historic former mental hospitals (Carolyn Gibbeson)

- Future-making Living Labs: the Emergence of Speculative Culture and New Challenges for Curatorial Practice (Gabriella Arrigoni) 

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

I am interested in supervising doctoral students with a fundamental interest in cultural politics who wish to work on (in no particular order of preference):

•   museum and gallery history

•   interpretation in art museums and galleries, history museums and heritage sites

•   museum epistemology

•   cultural cartography

•   the use of maps in museum interpretation

•   representations and experiences of time and place, place identities

•   museums and heritage in the EU, European identities

•   museums and migration

•   museums and cultural heritage in Italy

•   museums and cultural heritage in Turkey

•   museums and postcoloniality

•   museums, cultural heritage and contemporary social conflicts and tensions

•   difficult histories and memory practices

•   visitor studies

Please contact me if you would like to enquire about studying for a research degree under my supervision.



I am project leader, main Principal Investigator and consortium co-ordinator of 'Critical Heritages: performing and representing identities in Europe (CoHERE)', EU Horizon 2020, overall value €2.5million

I have also been an investigator on the following projects, among others:

 '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 €2.7million

- 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 was 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

- 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; time; Turkey; Italy; migration; EU; difficult history; memory practices; uses of the past; cultural politics; identity; representation.

Undergraduate Teaching

I lead stage 2 undergraduate module COM2077 Visual Culture.

I periodically teach the stage 2 and 3 undergraduate Art History module 'Art in Renaissance Italy' (FIN2026/3030).

Postgraduate Taught Teaching

I contribute to many of the museum, gallery and heritage studies campus-based postgraduate modules. I am the module leader for:

ICS 8005 Art Curatorship: working with histories, objects and agendas

I run the Museum and Heritage Studies strand of the 'Qualitative Methods' module and teach on the 'Thinking Theory' module, both of which are part of the HASS Faculty Postgraduate Research Training Programme. 

Details of my postgraduate research supervision can be found on my research page.