PhD Studentship: Hidden, Revealed: investigating representation and narratives of disability in the British Museum with University of Leicester and the British Museum

Collaborative Doctoral Partnership – Hidden, Revealed:  investigating representation and narratives of disability in the British Museum

The British Museum / The School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester

The British Museum in partnership with the University of Leicester invites applications from suitably qualified UK/EU candidates for a Collaborative Doctoral Award, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, to conduct research on the following theme:

Hidden, Revealed:  investigating representation and narratives of disability in the British Museum

In recent years, international museum thinking and practice has begun to be characterised by a desire to create inclusive narratives that draw on the cultures and contributions of previously marginalised or excluded groups.  However, the experience of disabled people – sometimes referred to as the world’s largest minority – still remain underrepresented, sometimes entirely invisible, within most institutions’ collections databases, displays and public programmes. Where narratives of disability are present, they very often reflect and reinforce negative stereotypes of disabled people that are prevalent across diverse media including film, literature, television, advertising and broadcast/print news. The British Museum, like many museums, has largely focussed on enhancing physical access for disabled visitors.  Whilst progress has been made towards diversifying the narratives presented through the object-rich galleries (on the basis, for example, of gender or sexual diversity) disabled people and their experiences are almost completely absent within interpretation in the British Museum’s displays.

This CDP will interrogate the British Museum’s current displays to better understand how and why narratives related to disability and experiences of physical and mental difference have been overlooked, marginalised or obscured.

The overarching research questions are:

  • To what extent are depictions of physical and mental difference – and the experiences of disability – present /absent in the Museum’s current galleries? How is disability represented through current displays/interpretation?
  • What factors account for the marginalisation of perspectives and narratives related to disability and physical and mental difference in the British Museum’s displays and public outputs?
  • How can current models of collections-based research and interpretive practice be adapted to more readily enable knowledge about – and experiences of – disability and difference to be captured, acknowledged and represented more meaningfully and ethically in museums?

The studentship can be full time (over three years) or part time (over 6 years) and will start 23 September 2019.  The successful candidate will be jointly supervised by a team comprised of British Museum and University of Leicester staff.  They will be based in either the University or the Museum.  The School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, is a hub for world leading research that shapes the field of museum thinking and practice. It offers a vibrant research culture within which the award holder will be supported to undertake original research leading to a PhD. The British Museum offers a lively research environment where the award holder will receive museum induction and training and will contribute to developing and promoting best practice in display and engagement.

By the end of the PhD, the student will have developed substantial skills as a researcher with expertise in both museum studies and participatory methods. They will also have developed sophisticated museum practice skills in community engagement and participatory working.

Supervision will be provided by Stuart Frost and Sarah Saunders (Learning and National Partnerships, British Museum) and Professors Richard Sandell and Jocelyn Dodd (School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester).

Applicants must have:

  • A UK undergraduate Bachelors degree (First Class or Upper Second)
  • Masters degree and/or relevant work experience.
  • Understanding of issues relating to the lived experience of disability
  • Experience of research and/or professional experience in the cultural sector or field of disability
  • Residency status meeting AHRC eligibility requirements, as set out in the AHRC ‘Student Funding Guide’ (see link below). In general, full studentships are available to students who are settled in the UK and have been ordinarily resident for a period of at least three years before the start of postgraduate studies.  Fees-only awards are generally available to EU nationals resident in the EEA. Other applicants are normally not eligible to apply for this studentship.

For AHRC’s academic criteria and residency requirements. See:


The award will cover University of Leicester tuition fees and provide the standard AHRC maintenance award for three years full time or 6 years part time. Additionally, the student will receive support from the British Museum of up to £1000 p.a. for approved travel and expenses, as well as a staff pass, a workspace with computer, research library access and staff privileges.

Application procedure

Candidates should submit an online University of Leicester PhD application form, attaching a statement (up to 3 sides of A4).  The statement should outline the applicant’s

–          academic qualifications and/ or relevant professional experience and expertise

–          motivation to pursue this Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

–          a provisional outline of a research topic within the thematic parameters given above. The outline should set out indicative aims and objectives, research questions, scholarly context, methods and sources.

Candidates must also arrange for two academic references to be submitted to the University of Leicester by the deadline.

Application and reference forms are available at:

Please indicate source of funding as ‘CDP (British Museum)’.

The Studentship can be undertaken either full time (3 years) or part time (6 years) will start on 23 September 2019. For further details of the award, the research project and procedures for applying, please click here.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 21 June 2019.

Interviews will take place at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester on 11 July 2019. Skype interviews will be possible for candidates unable to attend in person.

The successful candidate will be required to attend a full day induction in London on 12 September 2019.

Informal enquiries regarding the award can be addressed to:

For more information on the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme, please see

For more information on the British Museum’s current Collaborative Doctoral Awards, see here:

For more information on the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, see here –



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