Professor Emeritus Eilean Hooper Greenhill

Professor Emerita Eilean Hooper GreenhillProfessor of Museum Studies

I am Emeritus Professor of Museum Studies, having retired from full-time work in the Department in September 2008. As an Associate, I continue to maintain an active interest in the Department in a number of ways, albeit from a distance. I am currently living and working in North Devon, developing approaches to ceramic sculpture and drawing. See my sculpture and drawing work

I was Head of Department from 1996 to 2002 and during the period the Department was awarded 24/24 by QAA and 5/5 in RAE2001; distance learning masters’ and doctoral programmes were introduced; and I was named one of the Top Ten leading people in museums in the UK as chosen by their peers by The Independent on Sunday (29th Sept, 2002: 7), with others including Sir Nick Serota and Sir Neil McGregor.

I was founding Director of the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) from 1999 – 2006. RCMG came into being to develop research into museums, education and learning; since its inception these interests have broadened with the input of numerous members of Departmental staff. RCMG has always been self-financing; grants and commissions of over £1m were gained by RCMG between 1999 and 2006, and major tenders and commissions from DCMS/DFES and the Museums, Libraries, Archives Council (MLA) were gained. The department’s successful submission to RAE2008 was based around the work of RCMG. It was judged that the School of Museum Studies had (at 65%) the highest proportion of world-leading research in any subject in any UK university.

In November 2007, I published Museums and Education: Purpose, Pedagogy, Performance (Routledge) that presents much of the work of RCMG over the last five years. During the academic year 2007-08, I acted as visiting International Professor at the School of Education, University of Granada, Spain. From 2007-2009, the main focus was the development of a new masters’ programme Museums: Learning, Education and Visitor Studies, delivered by distance learning, with the first students beginning in September 2008.

I was founding editor (with Flora Kaplan of New York University) of the Routledge Museum Meanings series. From 2002-05 I sat on the AHRB/C Panel 6 – Librarianship, Information and Museum Studies, the first representative for Museum Studies and was a member of the AHRC Peer Review College for three years.

Career History

My higher education has moved from an initial degree in fine art to a Masters Degree and then Doctor of Philosophy in sociology. My first degree was largely practical, covering a range of sculptural processes, although I also followed courses in Philosophy, Italian and History of Art and wrote a dissertation on the sculptures of Picasso (which have remained an enduring influence on my art work). I became interested in the sociology of education and culture while working at the Cockpit Arts Workshop and then the National Portrait Gallery in London. The Cockpit was charged with developing art practice in secondary schools in London and I was exposed to new ideas that critiqued and challenged how art was taught in schools at that time. The art courses that formed part of the Diploma in Education at the Institute of Education did not enable me to analyse these challenges and this encouraged me to move to a discipline (sociology) that did.

Later, working at the National Portrait Gallery, I became aware of the establishment and ambiguity of cultural boundaries that hold some elements of social life in place. Moving into academic life enabled me to explore and develop aspects of the sociology of culture and education as they impact on museums and learning. My academic writing has concentrated on the social sides of museums and galleries, education, learning, exhibitions, in short – the experience of visitors. There was very little written on these themes in 1980 and much of my academic career has focused on building this particular element of Museum Studies as a disciple. Now, having largely moved out of the academic world, I am exploring and rediscovering the hands-on processes of clay-building, making glazes, and drawing. I am immersed in textures, mass and colour. Being involved in the establishment of a sculpture studio in the Department of Adult Education at Leicester in the early 1980s included learning how to use a kiln and how to make ceramic sculpture. Some of the pieces that I made then (which harked back to some aspects of earlier work) are proving to be the forerunners of much that I find myself making now. I find I already have a sculptural language just waiting to be made concrete!


1967        BA (Hons) Fine Art, Sculpture (University of Reading)
1968  Art Teachers Certificate, Hornsey College of Art (University of London)
1978  Diploma in Education (University of London, Institute of Education)
1980  MA Sociology of Education (University of London, Institute of Education)
1988  PhD Sociology of Education (University of London, Institute of Education)

Positions Held

1968-73 Sculpture teacher, Holland Park Comprehensive School, London
1972-77 Various part-time/free-lance positions 
1973-7 Art teacher/lecturer, Cockpit Theatre and Arts Curriculum Development Unit, ILEA
1974 Assistant leader, Kidsplay II, Tate Gallery
1975  Assistant leader, Tate Games, Tate Gallery
1976  Leader, holiday activities, National Portrait Gallery
1977-80  Education Officer, National Portrait Gallery; Acting Keeper of Education on leaving
1980-95  Lecturer, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
1981-91  Sculpture tutor (part-time) Department of Adult Education, University of Leicester
1988-92  Visiting art tutor, University of Cambridge Extra Mural Department
1995-99  Senior Lecturer, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
1996-2002  Head of Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
1999-2008  Professor of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
1999-2006  Director of Research Centre for Museums and Galleries

Research Interests


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