Institute for Ageing

Staff Profile

Dr Bruce Davenport

Research Associate



I work as a Researcher in Media, Culture, Heritage. My research is mainly focussed on the work that cultural heritage organisations do with older people, especially those with dementia. I am currently PI on one project, End of Volunteering - a pilot project exploring the impact of being obliged to cease volunteering due to ill-health or other age-related conditions. As an RA, I am completing work relating to the Dementia & Imagination project, which looks at the impact of creative arts interventions on people with dementia. I am also providing research support to other projects within Media, Culture, Heritage. Another, recent project has been Active Ageing & Heritage in Adult Learning - a European project looking at the impact of reminiscence sessions in open air museums for people with dementia and their accompanying carers.

A lot of my work is carried out in collaboration with colleagues working in museums, notably Beamish Museum and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. I enjoy doing work which has a direct relevance to professional practices in the cultural heritage sector. I also have an interest in understanding object handling and the ways that people interact around museum objects.

Before joining Media, Culture, Heritage, I have had a varied career which continues to inform my work. I worked as a post-doctoral researcher in Engineering Metallurgy before moving over into the cultural heritage sector. Initially, I took up the post of Assistant Learning Officer in the Shipley & Laing Art Galleries (Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums). During this time I developed a successful programme of workshops and resources for primary schools, focusing on encouraging cross-curricular work in the art galleries. Since then, I have worked as a freelance museum and gallery educator and researcher, developing and delivering workshops, writing resources for museums and managing projects.


  • 2017 MSc, Psychology, University of Northumbria
  • 2007 PGCE, Primary Education, University of Northumbria
  • 2003 MA, Museum Studies, Newcastle University
  • 1994 PhD, Engineering Materials, Southampton University
  • 1991 B.Eng. (Hons), Aeronautical Engineering, Manchester University


  • British Psychological Society
  • British Society of Gerontology
  • Museums Association


  • Working Dutch

Google Scholar: Click here.



I often work on multiple projects in collaborative teams with other researchers and non-academic partners in the cultural heritage sector. The work I do touches on the topics of people, places and objects. I am interested in how poeople interact with each other, with museum objects and the spaces that these interactions take place within. A lot of my work has focused on older people and can be described as 'cultural gerontology'. This work tends to focus on the outcomes of these interaction (e.g. psychological wellbeing). However, I am also interested in the social, cognitive and embodied processes that underpin these outcomes.

My work has drawn on different methods. I follow a mixed-methods approach which seeks to find the most suitable methods for the question at hand. I have used quantitative methods with statistical data analysis, qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews and more visual, observational approaches (though not all at the same time). I value the insights that different disciplines can bring to a problems and try to draw on literature from diverse fields (e.g., material culture studies, psychology and sociology) whilst being mindful of the different assumptions and theoretical commitments that these disciplines build upon.

The projects I have been involved in have been funded by a range of organisations: internally-funded projects, jointly supported by the Newcastle University's Institute for Ageing and Institute for Social Renewal; regional projects funded by via a regional museums service; national projects funded by AHRC and ESRC; European projects funded by Erasmus .


I am the Principal Investigator on a pilot project which is intended to explore the impact of being obliged to cease volunteering due to ill-health or the effects of ageing. The project will consider both the personal experience of volunteers and the management responses to this issue. The project is jointly funded by the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal and the Newcastle University Institute of Ageing. My co-investigators are Prof. Andrew Newman and Dr Suzanne Moffatt  (Institute of Health & Society).

I am currently working with Prof. Andrew Newman on follow-on work from the 'Dementia & Imagination' project. This looks at the ways that creative activity can enrich the lives of people with dementia and their carers. This is a large interdisciplinary project involving research groups from universities across the UK. My role is to analyse the qualitative interview data with the participants and with their carers and then to integrate that with data analysed by other researchers.

I am also currently carrying out research around the themes of museums, heritage and identity in support of other projects in Media, Culture, Heritage.

I have recently worked with Prof. Rhiannon Mason on the 'Active Ageing & Heritage in Adult Learning' project. This project involved 5 open-air museums and 3 universities from across Europe. It looked at the impact that reminiscence activities in these museums has on participants. The goal was to develop good practice advice for other museums. My role in this project has been to manage the evaluation process and collaborate with the other university partners on the analysis of the quantitative data.

In 2015-16, I completed a project with Dr Areti Galani where we collaborated with staff at Beamish Museum to develop 'Methodological investigations in capturing impact of museum activities on older men with mental illness'. This was a small, exploratory project, funded by the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal, to find suitable and unobtrusive methods for capturing the impact of sessions that staff at Beamish had developed with staff from a regional Occupational Therapy Clinic aimed at providing socially meaningful and therapeutic experiences within the museum setting. I worked with the museum staff to develop the methods which involved observation and lifestory interviews. We also collaborated on the data gathering and analysis.

In 2010, I worked in a freelance capacity on the Ageing, Health & Vitality project. This was a collaboration between Newcastle's Institute for Ageing and local museum services to explore the impact that engaging with museums has on older people. My role was principally as project manager and liaison between the different partners but I also contributed to the literature research and data analysis.

In 2011, I worked with Prof. Mason & Dr. Galani on a pilot project called Holding Memories. The aim of the project was to explore why objects provoke memories. We explored how different settings influence the conversation and interactions between a group of people. The project drew on multi-modal conversation analysis and aspects of grounded cognition to consider both the verbal and embodied aspects of people's conversation. This project focused more on process than outcomes and it relates to my interests in object-based learning in museums. The synthesis of insights from psychology and material cultural studies is very fruitful and an area that I have studies, documented in my personal blog (Holding the Moment of Holding) and hope to explore further in the future.


I have contributed to various taught modules on the MGH programmes.

I am currently the module leader for the Reseach Methods module which is a compulsory part of our Masters programmes. I also contribute to the Communication & Learning and Managing Projects modules as well as supervising students through their 60-credit research projects. The breadth of my own research background is (I think) the reason why I deliver the lectures on both qualitative and quantitative methods!

I started working for MCH (then ICCHS) in 2007 and in that time I have contributed to various parts of the Masters programmes that we offer. I have worked as the Placement Manager over several years, working with cultural heritage organisations across the country and internationally to successfully deliver students' placements. In the previous iteration of the Masters programmes, I (co-)led the Management module and the optional Education module for Museums Studies students. I have also contributed to other modules delivering practicals and lectures on themes such as collections management, education, heritage & wellbeing. I have also supported students as a Dissertation Supervisor and Personal Tutor. I have also been actively involved in the administrative aspect of developing and running post-graduate taught modules.

In all my teaching I draw on my own interests and experiences as an educator, researcher and freelancer to inform my teaching. I use these concrete experiences to illustrate the (sometimes abstract) concepts and relate them to the settings the student are aiming to work in.

I have also written material for e-learning programmes and worked as a content editor for other people's modules.