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 and admissions officer

- REF co-ordinator and ICCHS head of research



- 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 publish in the fields of museum history and theory and heritage studies, with particular emphases on the cultural politics of representation, display, knowledge construction, interpretation and uses of the past. I have strong interests in 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.

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 and how visitors respond to this. 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 normally undertaken 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 Professor Peter Stone and Professor 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 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 the EU
  • 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, after first visiting the research programmes page.


I am/have 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 2.6 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

- 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.

Undergraduate Teaching


ICCHS is currently developing new undergraduate programmes in Heritage, History & Archaeology (available from September 2015). Find out more about our undergraduate programmes


I also periodically teach the stage 2 and 3 undergraduate Art History module 'Art in Renaissance Italy' (FIN2026/3030)  and contribute to stage 1 Art History survey modules.


Postgraduate Taught Teaching


I contribute to all the ICCHS campus-based postgraduate modules. I am the module leader for:


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

ICS 8006 Art Curatorship: exhibitions and exhibiting


Postgraduate E-Learning Teaching


I contribute to the Centre's e-learning programme in Heritage Management & Tourism. Find out more about our e-learning programmes


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