Professor Richard Sandell

RS 1  Professor of Museum Studies

0116 252 3965


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 investigating 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. For more information, see 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.  In 2013 I was elected to the Board 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 have worked closely with the Museums Association since 1998 on strategic initiatives designed to enhance diversity within the museum sector workforce. I subsequently acted as an advisor to the American Association of Museums’ taskforce on Museums and Diversity. In 2013 I was delighted to be elected to the Museums Association's Board of Trustees.

I have co-managed a number of research projects with RCMG including work for the Arts Council of England; the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Group for Large Local Authority Museums; National Museums and Galleries of Wales; MLA: the museums, libraries and archives council and the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), part of Culture and Sport Glasgow.

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 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 PhD students investigating the following topics:

    • exhibition visiting in Taiwan - Alhuah Lin
    • museums and representations of sexuality and gender identity - Marianna Tseliou
    • museums and indigenous rights - Ching-yueh Hsieh
    • the impact of socially engaged arts practice on participants - Sarah Plumb
    • museum partnerships and new forms of knowledge - Mercy Trent
    • telling plural histories in historic houses- Lesley Barker
    • museum exclusion and young people - Laurence Brasseur
    • military museums and diversity - Rachel Adams
    • exhibitions and organisational goals and values - Wen-Ling Lin 

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

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