School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Dr Alison Atkinson-Phillips

Lecturer in Public History


I am Newcastle University's first lecturer in public history, and am working with colleagues from across the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (HCA) to design new public history teaching at all study levels. 

As a public historian, I am interested in the past in the present. My research interests include 'marginalised' histories, how difficult pasts are dealt with in the present, public art and place-based memory work. 

I joined HCA originally in January 2018 as an oral history research associate, and was instrumental in the formation of the Newcastle University Oral History Unit & Collective

Before coming to Newcastle, I worked as a casual tutor and lecturer in Community Development and Professional Writing at the Faculty of Arts at Murdoch University, and in History at the University of Western Australia.

I completed my BA(Hons) undergraduate degree in Communication & Cultural Studies at Curtin University in the 1990s, before spending a decade working as a communications professional. I re-entered academic life to complete a graduate diploma in Community Development at Murdoch University, Perth and then followed this up with a PhD at the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology, Sydney supervised by Professor Paula Hamilton. My PhD, titled 'Reasons to Remember: Public Memorials to Lived Experiences of Loss in Australia, 1985-2015', was completed in 2017.  

Outside of academia, I have had a long involvement in social justice advocacy at a community level, including being involved in campaigns on prison justice and responses to asylum seekers in Australia. I spend my spare time hiking, knitting and hanging out with my family.  

Area of Expertise

Public history, oral history, co-production, memory studies, memorialisation, public art, food poverty, deindustrialisation  

Google Scholar


I am a public historian who works across disciplinary boundaries, including cultural memory studies, oral history and cultural geography. My research brings together two important fields: historical dialogue and deindustrialisation studies. My research practice uses oral history along with visual and other sources. Below are some of the ongoing projects I am involved with. 

Covid-19 Mutual Aid Pilot

Investigating the localised mutual aid response to the Covid-I9 lockdown, this project is a collaboration between Northern Cultural Projects and the Oral History Unit & Collective. Read more at

Foodbank Histories

I am the academic lead on Foodbank Histories, a collaboration between Northern Cultural Projects, Newcastle West End Foodbank, and the Oral History Unit & Collective. Read more at

Memories of Shipbuilding in North East England

I am exploring histories of deindustrialisation in the North East, with a focus on the experiences of people connected to the shipbuilding  industry. Working with associate researcher Rosie Bush, I created the We Made Ships public history website. Produced in consultation with secondary teaching staff, it is designed to be of use for students, teachers and local historians. 

Survivor Memorials

My PhD My previous research used oral history to understand the cultural 'work' of memorials to lived experience in Australia. The findings of this research were published as Survivor Memorials (although unfortunately not everyone who lived through a difficult experience ultimately survives). I continue to be interested in both the history of public commemorative practices and the people who often have to fight to have their histories remembered.


Module leader:

HIS1104 Public History  

HIS3030 History and Society 


HIS2219 Oral History and Memory