Research interests

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. With Jocelyn Dodd, I initiated and co-direct Exceptional & Extraordinary: unruly bodies and minds in the medical museum.  I am currently completing a book - Museums, Moralities and Human Rights - which 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.

In 2015, with colleagues in RCMG, we completed a research project entitled Stories of a Different Kindmat 2funded 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 9 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.

mat 4The 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 at https://lra.le.ac.uk/handle/2381/33. 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  (http://www.pridephotoaward.org/archives/3775) and representations of disabled people through a series of portraits of performer, Mat Fraser, which now form part of the Wellcome Images collection.ANDREW AND IRENE 1 

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.

My new monograph – Museums, Moralities and Human Rights - exploring museums' engagement with LGBTI histories and culture will be published by Routledge in November 2016

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.

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