Dr Rosemary Shirley


I am an Associate Professor in Museum Studies. I teach across the programmes in the school and I convene the practice module which enables students to complete work placements in some of the most exciting and innovative museums, galleries and heritage organisations across the UK.

My research centres on everyday life and visual culture, with a particular emphasis on rural contexts. I am interested in how rural places are imagined and represented in art, by heritage organisations and in popular culture.  This has led me to write about topics as diverse as litter, motorways, folk customs, migration and electricity.
I have published widely on the idea of the rural including my monograph Rural Modernity, Everyday Life and Visual Culture (Routledge 2015). I enjoy working with arts and heritage organisations on research and curatorial projects. I worked with the Whitechapel Gallery and partners including Istanbul Biennial, Wysing Art Centre, Myvillages and Aberystwyth University on the research project The Rural: Contemporary Art and Spaces of Connection, generating a programme of events, and international conference and a publication. I co-curated (with Verity Elson) Creating the Countryside, a large scale exhibition at Compton Verney (March-June 2017) featuring the work of over 100 artists including Gainsborough, Turner, Constable, Grayson Perry, Ingrid Pollard, Anna Fox, Georgina Barney and Rebecca Chesney.
My undergraduate degree was in Fine Art at Winchester School of Art, followed by an MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. I completed my PhD at the University of Sussex in 2012. Prior to academia, I worked in a variety of art gallery contexts including Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth where I set up and managed the Artists’ Resource Centre (ARC) to provide high quality professional development opportunities for artists. I have also maintained a long working relationship with a-n The Artists Information Company, writing many articles and reviews for a-n Magazine and working as an editor for their online critical writing platform.  Most recently I have commissioned and edited a series of 10 articles for a-n.co.uk on artists working in rural places.
I welcome PhD enquiries in the following areas: Landscape, spatial cultures, place orientated studies, contemporary art in rural places, representations of landscape/countryside in visual culture, art history, heritage organisations and popular culture, curatorial strategies, the study of everyday life, modernism/modernities, folk cultures, craft.
I have examined PhDs at Manchester Metropolitan University (internal) and University of Manchester (external).

Selected Publications


R. Shirley (2015) Rural Modernity, Everyday Life and Visual Cultures Farnham: Routledge.

Edited Collection

V. Elson and R. Shirley (2017) Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll Past and Present London: Paul Holberton Publishing.
Book Chapters
R.Shirley (forthcoming) (2019) ‘Rurality, Place and the Imagination’ in The Routledge Handbook of Place by Tim Edensor, Ares Kalandides and Uma Kothari (Eds.), London: Routledge.
R Shirley (2019) ‘Keeping Britain Tidy: Litter and Anxiety’ in Rural by MyVillages (Eds.), London: Whitechapel and MIT Press.
R Shirley (2018) ‘Performing the Village’ in Rurality Re-Imagined: Villagers, Farmers, Wanders and Wild Things by Ben Stringer (Ed.), San Francisco and New York: ORO Editions.
R Shirley (2018) ‘Cultures of Connectivity: Visual Representations of a Networked Countryside in the Early Twentieth Century’ in  Rural Modernity: A Critical Intervention by Kristen Bluemel and Michael McCluskey (Eds.), Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
R Shirley and R Chesney (2018) ‘Dry as a Badger and other Rural Mythologies’ in Practicing Place: Creative & Critical Reflections on Place, by Elaine Speight (Ed). Sunderland: Art Editions North.
R. Shirley (2017) ‘The Wide Margins of Modernity’ in Companion to Modern Art by Pam Meecham (Ed.) Oxford and New York: Wiley Blackwell.
R. Shirley (2017) ‘Smells Like Rural Idyll’ in Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll Past and Present by Verity Elson and Rosemary Shirley (Eds.), London: Paul Holberton Publishing.
V. Elson and R. Shirley (2017) ‘Creating the Countryside: Introduction’ Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll Past and Present by Verity Elson and Rosemary Shirley (Eds.), London: Paul Holberton Publishing.
R. Shirley (2017) ‘Artists Interviews with: Rebecca Chesney, Anna Fox, Hilary Jack, Sigrid Holmwood, Ingrid Pollard, Delaine Le bas, Andy Sewell ’ in Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll Past and Present by Verity Elson and Rosemary Shirley (Eds.), London: Paul Holberton Publishing.
R Shirley (2017) ‘Pylons and Birds Eye: The Women’s Institute go Electric’ in Transforming the Countryside by Paul Brassley, Jeremy Burchardt and Karen Sayer (Eds.), Farnham: Routledge.
R Shirley (May 2015) ‘Speed and Stillness: Driving in the Countryside’ in Affective Landscapes in Literature, Art and Everyday Life by Christine Berberich et al. (Eds.), Farnham: Ashgate.
C. Cartiere, R. Shirley, S. Willis (2008) ‘A Timeline for the History of Public Art: The United Kingdom and the United States of America, 1900-2005’ in The Practice of Public Art by Cameron Catiere and Shelly Willis (Eds.), Abingdon and New York: Routledge.

Journal Articles

J. Lee and R. Shirley ( 2019) ‘A walker’s guide to littered landscapes: An exploration of interdisciplinary, imaginative and collaborative modes of attention’ in Green Letters
R.Shirley (2017) ‘Festive Landscapes: The contemporary practice of Well Dressing in Tissington’ Landscape Research V.42, 2017 pp.650-662.

Exhibition Curation

Creating the Countryside: Thomas Gainsborough to Today, Compton Verney, Warwickshire, March – June 2017.
Always Greener: Views from the Contemporary Countryside, PM Gallery, Pitzhanger Manor, London, 4 May – 24 June 2012.

Recent Journalism

R. Shirley and J. Wilkes. ‘British Artists Going Back to the Land’, Apollo, May 2018.
Commissioning Editor for a collection of 10 articles centring on Rural Arts Practice, AN, 2019 a-n.co.uk

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