Professor Richard Sandell

RSandellProfessor of Museum Studies





Photo: Hayley Evans

Personal details

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
  • work closely with museums and galleries in the UK and internationally to develop research, teaching and professional development initiatives

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 of four months in the US 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.

mat 2In 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, including Museums, Equality and Social Justice with Eithne Nightingale.

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 and 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.

From 2013-16, I was a Trustee of the Museums Association.


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)
  • 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, when I worked for a number of organisations. These included 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.



Sandell, R. and Nightingale, E. (2012) Museums, Equality and Social Justice, Routledge: London and New York.

Sandell, R., Dodd, J. and Garland Thomson, R. (eds) (2010) Re-Presenting Disability: activism and agency in the museum, Routledge: London and New York.

Sandell, R and Janes, R. R. (eds) (2007) Museum Management and Marketing, Routledge: London and New York.

Sandell, R. (2007) Museums, Prejudice and the Reframing of Difference, Routledge: London and New York

Sandell, R. (ed) (2002) Museums, Society, Inequality, Routledge: London and New York.

Book chapters

Sandell, R. ‘Museums and the Human Rights Frame’ in R. Sandell. and E. Nightingale. (2012) Museums, Equality and Social Justice, Routledge: London and New York.

Sandell, R. and Dodd, J. ‘Activist practice’ in R. Sandell, J. Dodd and R. Garland Thomson, R. (eds) (2010) Re-Presenting Disability: activism and agency in the museum, Routledge: London and New York: 3-22.

Dodd, J., Jones, C., Jolly, D. and Sandell, R. ‘Disability reframed: challenging visitor perceptions in the museum’ in R. Sandell, J. Dodd and R. Garland Thomson, R. (eds) (2010) Re-Presenting Disability: activism and agency in the museum, Routledge: London and New York: 92-112.

Sandell, R. ‘Ethics and Activism’ in Marstine J. (ed.) (2011) Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics: Redefining Ethics for the Twenty-First Century Museum, London and New York: Routledge.

Sandell, R and Frost, S. ‘A persistent prejudice’ in Cameron, F and Kelly, L (eds) (2010) Hot Topics, Public Culture, Museums (Cambridge Scholars).

Janes, R.R. and Sandell, R. (2007) 'Complexity and Creativity in Contemporary Museum Management' in Sandell, R and Janes, R. R. (eds) (2007) Museum Management and Marketing, Routledge: London and New York.

Sandell, R. (2005) ‘Constructing and communicating equality: the social agency of museum space’ in MacLeod, S. (ed.) Reshaping Museum Space: architecture, design, exhibitions, Routledge: London.

Sandell, R. 2002. ‘Museums and the combating of social inequality: roles, responsibilities, resistance’, in Sandell, R. (ed.) Museums, Society, Inequality, Routledge, London.

Papers in journals

Sandell, R., Delin, A., Dodd, J., and Gay, J. (2005) ‘Beggars, freaks and heroes? Museum collections and the hidden history of disability’, Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, 20(1): 5-19.

Sandell, R., Delin, A., Dodd, J., and Gay, J. (2005) ‘In the shadow of the Freakshow: the impact of Freakshow tradition on the display and understanding of disability history in museums’ in Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 25, no. 4.

Sandell, R. 1998. ‘Museums as agents of social inclusion’ in Museum Management and Curatorship, 17 (4).

Sandell, R., 2000. ‘The strategic significance of workforce diversity in museums’ in International Journal of Heritage Studies, 6(3), 213-230.

Sandell, R., 2003. ‘Social inclusion, the museum and the dynamics of sectoral change’ in Museum & Society, 191): 45-62.

Research reports and professional publications

Dodd, J., Sandell, R., Jolly, D. and Jones, C (2008) Rethinking Disability Representation in Museums and Galleries, RCMG. (Heritage Lottery Fund and National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts).

Sandell, R. and Dodd, J. 2001. Including Museums: Perspectives on Museums, Galleries and Social Inclusion, Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, 2001.

Sandell, R. and Dodd, J. 1998. Building Bridges: Guidance for Museums and Galleries on Developing New Audiences, Museums and Galleries Commission, London.


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.

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 and Extraordinary: unruly bodies and minds in the medical museum.

My new book - Museums, Moralities and Human Rights (published 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.

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.


mat 1In 2015, with colleagues in RCMG, we completed a research project entitled Stories of a Different Kind – funded by the Wellcome Trust and in collaboration with the Science Museum, London, Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Physicians, SHAPE with advice and support from Katherine Ott, Curator at the Smithsonian Institution – that interrogated the potential for medical collections and museums to offer new ways of seeing and understanding disability, and to inform contemporary debates about disability rights and equality.

This built on a suite of projects exploring representations of disability carried out with Jocelyn Dodd over the past 15 years. In 2009, we completed a two year project entitled 'Rethinking Disability Representation' that explored the role that museums and galleries might play in challenging prejudice by informing the ways in which people think about disability and understand disabled peoples’ lives.

The £.5m project, instigated and managed by the School’s research centre (RCMG) and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and NESTA involved nine museums across the UK working with a think tank of disabled activists, artists and cultural practitioners to develop new approaches to the interpretation and display of collections linked to disability.


The project, which ran from 2006 until early 2009, built on the findings of an earlier project, 'Buried in the Footnotes' which was funded through the AHRB’s Innovation Awards scheme. The report from this project can be downloaded free from the Leicester Research Archive. A book - Re-Presenting Disability: activism and agency in the museum, edited with Jocelyn Dodd and Rosemarie Garland Thomson was published in 2010. This book features contributors working in wide ranging museums, galleries and cultural sites in Australia, Zambia, Norway, Taiwan, America, Canada, UK and Cambodia.

In 2013, I explored some of the themes that my research addresses through photography including portrayals of LGBT people in the public sphere and representations of disabled people through a series of portraits of performer, Mat Fraser, which now form part of the Wellcome Images collection.

In 2012/13, I worked with colleagues in RCMG on a research project commissioned by Historic Royal Palaces to inform new approaches to the interpretation of stories of torture, imprisonment and punishment at the Tower of London.


PhD supervision: If you are interested in studying for a research degree related to one or more of my research interests, please contact me with your ideas.

I currently supervise students investigating a range of topics:

  • Rachel Adams - email
  • Lesley Barker - email
  • Jennifer Bergevin - email
  • Laurence Brasseur - email
  • Wen-Ling (Melody) Lin - email
  • Mari Moystad - email
  • Sarah Plumb - email
  • Mercy Trent - email
  • Kristen Van Hoven - email

Topics available for PhD supervision:

  • 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

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