Prof. Simon Knell and Dr. Suzanne MacLeod
My PhD research explores how the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century 'curiosity cabinet' visually represented the world, and how and to what extent these strategies are reflected in contemporary art practice from the 1990s to the present day.
As privately-owned collections of extraordinary objects, cabinets often contained works of art, and frequently drew upon artistic practices in order to frame collecting activity. This thesis therefore examines works of art which were produced at the same time as the cabinet, and maintains that just as the cabinet drew upon artistic methods, so do contemporary artists now draw upon the concepts and practices of the cabinet.
The scope of the research is interdisciplinary, spanning history and historiography, museum studies, art history, theory and criticism and material cultural studies. It aims to present a revised interpretation of the curiosity cabinet in some of its historical and cultural contexts while exploring the multiplicity and complexity of the ways in which we understand the past and create meaning through the arrangement of objects in space.
This research is funded by a scholarship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
2008-2009: MA Museum Studies, (Distinction), University of Leicester
2001-2004: BA (Hons.) History, (First Class), University of Kent
Achievements and Funding
2013 Teaching Partnership Award (to be awarded on graduation)
2012 AHRC Collaborative Skills Development Funding (co-written bid, for Museum Metamorphosis)
2012 College of Arts, Humanities and Law Postgraduate Fund (for translating a 16th-century Latin text)
2012 Research Training Support Grant for AHRC-supported researchers (for presenting at an overseas conference)
2012 Graduate School Researcher Development Fund (for Museum Utopias)
2010-13 AHRC Block Grant Partnership Studentship (PhD Scholarship)
I have worked and volunteered in various roles in a number of UK museums and heritage institutions.
From 2006 to 2008 I worked for The Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace, in the Ticket Sales and Information Department. This varied and public-facing role entailed dealing with both general and specialist enquiries as well as booking visits to all official residences of The Queen. I also helped arrange private tours, access for visitors with mobility impairments, visits for school parties and adult education events. Venues worked at included The Queen's Gallery, The Royal Mews, Clarence House, Windsor Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Household Cavalry Museum.
Subsequently, I have completed internships at the Museum of London and the Ashmolean Museum, as well as voluntary work at Kensington Palace and Southend Central Museum. Projects I've worked on have included exhibitions research and audience evaluation, documentation and object installation.
During the summer of 2013, I conducted research for a new Exhibitions reader with Dr. Suzanne MacLeod, in collaboration with Lee Skolnick, of Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, New York, and Dr. Christopher Marshall, of the School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne, Australia.
I served as a Student Representative for the academic year 2011-2012, and as chair of the Student-Staff Consultative Committee.
I was the principal organiser of the highly successful 2012 postgraduate Symposium Museum Utopias: Navigating the Imaginary, Ideal and possible Museum, hosted by the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, on 27-28 March 2012.
I have also assisted in the smooth running of the 2011 postgraduate Symposium, Curiouser and Curiouser: Challenging Conventions and Celebrating the Unusual, and as a project advisor for our most recent conference, Museum Metamorphosis: The Adaptable and Changing Museum, held at the School on 5-6 November 2013.
Teaching and Mentoring
Since 2011, I have been an active participant in informal PhD-led seminars for Masters students in the School, known as 'Think Tanks'. In 2011 and 2012, I led two interactive, object-focussed seminars on the theme of seventeenth-century collecting, which were praised for their innovative approach by both students and peer reviewers. In 2013, I led another interactive seminar on the display of contemporary art in science museums. I have also had the pleasure of co-leading and peer-reviewing a number of Think Tank sessions with colleagues.
From 2011-2012, I supported a Masters student with Asperger’s Syndrome. As academic mentor, I assisted the student with interpreting, planning, structuring and writing essays, presentations and reports. Through my support, and their own hard work, the student achieved a Distinction.
I currently work closely with a Masters student with a visual impairment, taking notes, ensuring that the student has everything they need in order to complete tasks in class, and guiding them on study visits.
I am also an Associate Tutor for the Leicester Award for Employability, a University-led programme for students which enables them to develop key skills in the workplace through participation in extra-curricular activities which will enhance their employability on graduation.
6 December 2013. 'Before Museums: Exploring the Seventeenth-Century 'Cabinet of Curiosities', public lunchtime lecture, Leicester Adult Education College
5 November 2013. 'Before the Museum: The Curiosity Cabinet as Cultural Object and Metamorphe', at Museum Metamorphosis: The Adaptable and Changing Museum, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
27 June 2013. 'Crocodiles on the Ceiling: How Contemporary Artists Stole the Curiosity Cabinet' (poster presentation), Festival of Postgraduate Research, University of Leicester
26 July 2012. 'A World of Wonders in One Closet Shut: The Construction and Compression of Knowledge in the Miniature Curiosity Cabinet of the Seventeenth Century', at Knowledge in a Box: How Mundane Things Shape Knowledge production, Municipal Tobacco Warehouse, Kavala, Greece
8 June 2011. ‘From Faustian Lair to Theatre of Knowledge: Towards a New Interpretation of the Curiosity Cabinet’, Research Week paper presented at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
28 March 2011. ‘Bodies of Memory: The Use of Architectural Space in Understanding Medical History at The Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret, London’, at Curiouser and Curiouser: Challenging Conventions and Celebrating the Unusual in Museums and Heritage, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
Bowry, S. 'Art, Museums and Touch, Fiona Candlin, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2010', in Museum & Society Vol. 11, No. 2 (October 2013)
Bowry, S. 'The Greville Estate: The History of a Kilburn Neighbourhood', in London and Middlesex Archaeological Society Newsletter (May 2008)
Miscellaneous Papers and Reports
Bowry, S. 12 March 2013. Μουσείον: Artists’ Reflections on Museums. Highlights from the Creative Symposium held at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, on 5 December 2012
2013 - present: Board Member Without Portfolio, Museums and Galleries History Group
2012 - present: Museums and Galleries History Group
2007 - present: Museums Association