AHRC PhD Studentship: Digitised Collections and the Social Museum: The (Re)use of Images of Objects in the Collections of the Science Museum Group

University of London - School of Advanced Study

We invite applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship, beginning October 2018, in a collaboration between the School of Advanced Study, University of London (SAS) and the Science Museum, and funded by the Science Museums & Archives Consortium, an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership.

The studentship

Museums are moving away from viewing visitors as passive consumers to seeing them as active participants in the creation of knowledge. This project will explore what this means for museums and their audiences in digital spaces, focusing on the (re)use online of images from the Science Museum Group (SMG) collections. It will investigate how and why museum visitors share photographs of objects taken in-gallery, and the factors that motivate them to engage with images via the Science Museum’s website, thereby gaining insight into the role of the digital in the development of the social museum. This timely research is an important addition to digital humanities and museum studies, and to sector-wide understanding of audience behaviour and digital engagement.

Potential research questions are:

  • What influences visitors’ emotional engagement with museum objects, and their decisions to photograph and share them?
  • What stories do people associate with the shared images; how do visitors use their own knowledge of objects to present personal image collections?
  • How is the visitor experience shaped by engaging through a smartphone?
  • How might the museum’s online collections connect to its galleries; what role might audiences play?
  • How might SMG use visitor photographs and digital stories to enhance its online collections; how might this affect collecting practice?

The SMG collections are uniquely suitable for this research, as user engagement is often filtered through reminiscence. Many displayed objects relate to visitors’ own experiences, and these personal stories will be key.

Project supervisors are Jane Winters, Professor of Digital Humanities, SAS, and John Stack, Digital Director, Science Museum.

The studentship runs from October 2018 for 36 months, plus a further six months of research skills training and a placement/internship to be agreed.

The studentship covers tuition fees, plus standard-rate stipend, which for 2018/19 is £16,777: see www.rcuk.ac.uk/skills/training /. The award also carries up to £1,000 annually from the SMG towards travel and research costs: see www.ahrc.ac.uk/skills/phdstudents/fundingandtraining/training-grants-and-training-grant-funding-guides/.


Applicants must

  • have a good Master’s degree in digital humanities, library/information studies, museum studies, or another closely relevant subject. We may consider relevant professional experience in place of a Master’s: please contact the academic supervisor for guidance
  • have at least the equivalent of 2:1 first degree
  • satisfy the University of London’s entry requirements: see https://www.sas.ac.uk/graduate-study/entry-requirements/

Applicants are subject to the Research Councils UK eligibility requirements; see www.rcuk.ac.uk/funding/grantstcs/. We cannot accept applications from students liable to pay fees at the Overseas rate.

How to apply

Deadline for applications is 17.00 BST on Friday 6 April 2018. Please submit

  • covering letter (2 pp max) outlining your suitability for the studentship
  • CV (2 pp max), including contact details for two referees
  • sample of academic writing, around 2,000-3,000 words

directly to Professor Jane Winters (jane.winters@sas.ac.uk). To discuss the studentship informally, contact Professor Winters.

Interviews take place w/c 30 April.

The successful candidate will be required to make a standard PhD application before the award of the studentship is confirmed.

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