Professor Richard Sandell

Professor of Museum Studies  (

rs 2015


As Professor of Museum Studies I teach across the School’s Masters programmes, supervise PhD students, work on a variety of research projects with RCMG, carry out my own research and work closely with museums and galleries in the UK and internationally to develop research, teaching and professional development initiatives.

My research, frequently carried out in collaboration with museums, focuses on the potential for museums to support social justice and equality. I am especially interested in the emergence, over the past two decades, of an 'activist museum practice' (Sandell and Dodd 2010) and in exploring the social agency of museums and, in particular, their potential to tackle prejudice and engage audiences in debates pertaining to contemporary human rights. Current projects are exploring museums’ increasing engagement with sexuality, gender identity and LGBTQ history and culture and developing new, progressive narratives of disability within museums. With Jocelyn Dodd, I initiated and co-direct Exceptional & Extraordinary: unruly bodies and minds in the medical museum

My new book - Museums, Moralities and Human Rights (out December 2016) explores museum practice as human rights work through a focus on the ways in which museums, galleries and heritage sites have presented (and often suppressed or distorted) narratives of gender variance and same-sex love and desire. 

Museums, Moralities and Human Rights (Paperback) book cover


I am also working with Robert Janes to co-edit a new book - Museums and Activism.  See also Research Interests below.mat 1

With colleagues within and beyond the School I am also working on initiatives to support current students, recent graduates and alumni in developing their careers and fostering innovative practice within the sector.  From 2013-16 I was a Trustee of the Museums Association.

Career history

I joined the School as a lecturer in 1997, having worked in a range of museums, arts and heritage organisations and became Deputy Head in 2002. I was Head of Museum Studies from 2007 – January 2013.

In 2004 I was awarded a Fellowship in Museum Practice from the Smithsonian Institution and spent a total for 4 months in the States undertaking research into the role of museums in countering prejudice. This research was later published in book form as Museums, Prejudice and the Reframing of Difference, by Routledge in 2007.

In April 2008 I took up a Research Fellowship at the Humanities Research Center of the Australian National University to begin a new research project – ‘Museums, Moralities and Human Rights’. I am currently developing this research that examines the role that museums play in promoting and engendering support for human rights and explores how the can navigate the moral and ethical challenges bound up with this socially purposeful work.

In 2009 I completed a major project with Jocelyn Dodd, Director of RCMG, exploring representations of disability and disabled people in museums culminating in a number of publications including Sandell, R., Dodd, J. and Garland Thomson, R. Re-Presenting Disability: activism and agency in the museum.

I have published five books; the most recent (2012) (with Eithne Nightingale) is entitled Museums, Equality and Social Justice.

I served as a member of the AHRC’s Peer Review College from 2005-13. I am currently a member of the editorial boards of the international, peer-reviewed journals Museum Management and Curatorship, museum & society; Museums and Social Issues: a journal of reflective discourse and the newly launched journal of the Science Museum Group.

In 2006 I was elected a Fellow of the RSA. In 2010 I took up the position as series editor (with Christina Kreps) for Museum Meanings, published by Routledge.


I contribute to teaching across all of the School’s campus based and distance learning programmes. My main areas of teaching responsibility are museum management and marketing (including leadership, organisational change, human resources management, audience development and so on) and the social roles of museums. Both my teaching and research are closely linked to issues concerning contemporary museum practice and many interests grow out of my practitioner experience prior to joining the Department in 1997. (I worked for a number of organisations including English Heritage and later Nottingham City Museums and Art Galleries where, from 1992 - 1997, I was Marketing Manager and developed a range of initiatives for diversifying and developing museum audiences.)

PhD Supervision

I currently supervise students investigating a range of topics

Topics available for PhD supervision include:

  • museums and disability
  • equality, diversity and human rights
  • sexuality and gender diversity in museum narratives
  • organisational change
  • participation and public engagement

Past PhD students, who have since gone on to take up academic appointments or to develop their careers within the museum sector, have explored a range of topics including:

    • new approaches to presenting diversity in ethnographic museums – Dr Serena Iervolino
    • emancipatory research methods and practices in museums – Dr Heather Hollins
    • the social agency of museums in Ireland - Dr Alan Kirwan
    • museum publishing - Dr Sally Hughes
    • representing diverse communities in the National Museum of Colombia - Dr Cristina Lleras
    • Learning, recollection and connection: a study of cultural identities amongst visitors to local museums in Taiwan – Dr Chia-Li Chen
    • Government policies and fine arts museums in Taiwan – Dr Hui-Jong Hsieh
    • Motivations, Attitudes and Loyalty: towards a pricing strategy model for Taiwanese Museums – Dr Yupin Chung
    • Admission charges, the representative audience and public museums - Dr Yung-Neng Lin
    • Perceptions of the art museum in Cyprus - Dr Theopisti Stylianou-Lambert
    • Representations and readings of national identity in the new National Museum of Korea - Dr Jeong-eun Lee
    • Museum Learners Club: social environments for inclusive learning - Dr Susan Baldino

Research Interests

Key Publications

Share this page: