Dr. Katy Bunning

Lecturer in Museum Studies at the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester

Katy Bunning 10-7-15

Lecturer in Museum Studies

klg22@le.ac.uk @katybunning +44 (0) 116 252 5723

My research responds to the urgent need for museums, galleries, training programmes, and professional bodies in the cultural and heritage sectors to actively challenge systemic racism and ongoing coloniality in order to become spaces that are designed with and for a wider range of people. Working closely with the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG), my focus is to create collaborative, action-led and interdisciplinary research teams to identify and disrupt the ongoing production of racial ideas, embedded fears, and other barriers to inclusivity, which stifle leadership, risk-taking and transformation in the field. My research seeks to embed real-world outcomes through positive action approaches and seeks to support ongoing institutional cultural change.

My research to date has been historical, centred on the long history of Black-led museum practice, alongside the evolution of ‘colourblind’ and ‘post-race’ assertations within sectoral discourse. In my recently published book, Negotiating Race and Rights in the Museum (Routledge, 2021), I unpack the changing manifestations of white normativity in museums in the US, and the racial politics that have shaped the evolution of museum cultures over time. More locally, my work has focused on the design and development of positive action initiatives to diversify the museum sector, and investigating and supporting decolonial practices within higher education.


My teaching is focused on socially engaged practice, museums, race and decolonial practices. I lead the following modules: Contemporary Museum Contexts, The Museum and Change, and an innovative 'virtual placement' module on the MA/PGDip/PGCert in Socially Engaged Practice in Museums and Galleries, which is run jointly with National Museums Liverpool.

I have a particular specialism in flexible and distance learning pedagogies, having worked for more than ten years as a Research Associate for distance learning developments in the School of Museum Studies. In 2015, I played a significant role in developing the first Museum Studies MOOC, ‘Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum’ which was developed collaboratively with National Museums Liverpool.

I was involved in supporting the School of Museum Studies' Diversify! positive action management trainee scheme with the Museum Association at Leicester and more recently have helped set up positive action scholarships in Museum Studies. I have recently been awarded a University Distinguished Teaching Fellowship in recognition of my work on accessible and inclusive curricula for the University of Leicester. I am also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA), and currently Co-lead on distance learning delivery.

PhD Supervision

I supervise students doing cultural and historical studies of museums and heritage, and exploring structural questions around participation, collaboration and socially engaged practice. Topics of interest are community museums, heritage and identity, racial histories, contemporary ethnographic museums, diversity and decolonising discourses and practices, and museum histories.

My current and forthcoming research students are working on:

  • Heritage, identity and oil sponsorship in Canadian museums
  • National museums and local embeddedness in the context of Taiwan
  • Community museums in China
  • Evaluating the impact of socially engaged practice
  • Colonial histories and practices within art museums



Bunning, K. (2021) Negotiating Race and Rights in the Museum, Routledge.

Book chapters

Bunning, K. (2018) 'Ethnic heritage for the nation: Debating "identity museums" on the National Mall', in Watson, S., Barnes, A.J. and Bunning, K. (eds.) A Museum Studies Approach to Heritage. Leicester Readers in Museum Studies, Routledge.

Watson, S., Barnes, A. J. and Bunning, K. (2018) 'Introduction', in Watson, S., Barnes, A.J. and Bunning, K. (eds.) A Museum Studies Approach to Heritage. Leicester Readers in Museum Studies, Routledge.

Journal papers

Bunning, K., Kavanagh, J., McSweeney, K., and Sandell, R. 2015. 'Embedding Plurality: Exploring participatory practice in the development of a new permanent gallery'. Science Museum Journal, 3, Spring.

Edited volumes

Watson, S., Barnes, A.J. and Bunning, K. (eds.) (2018) A Museum Studies Approach to Heritage. Leicester Readers in Museum Studies, Routledge.

Conference papers and workshops

Invited speaker on ‘Museums, racism and movements for racial justice’, Talent-Development Programme ‘Socially Engaged Practice’, Graduate Institute of Museum Studies, Fu Jen Catholic University (Taiwan), 2020

Bunning, K. (2017) ‘Debating "Culturally Specific Museums": Who owns the racial past?’, Migration, Home, and Belonging, ICOM - ICME 2017 Annual Conference, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., 17-19th October, 2017.

Invited speaker at 'Crossing Borders, Building Trust: Negotiating Censorship and Self-Censorship in Curatorial Practice', Inaugural CRIA Symposium, supported by the British Academy, University of Leicester, 16th June, 2017.

Bunning, K., Sandell, R., Dodd, J., Phillips, E., Hughes, S., Bergevin, J. and Terry, N.  (2016) ‘Rethink One Object: Interpretation, Identity and Social Justice' presentation and workshop at Museums in the Global Contemporary: Debating the Museum of Now, University of Leicester, 20-22nd April, 2016.

Invited speaker at ‘Remembering Rosa Parks: Understanding the U.S. Civil Rights Movement' schools outreach event, University of Leicester, 15th October 2015.

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