Geology (18)

AHRC PhD Studentship - The Extractive Museum: The formation, evolution and dispersal of the Museum of Practical Geology collections, 1835-c.1901

Funding for: Home and International applicants

Funding amount: PhD tuition fees and annual stipend at the UKRI rate (£19,237 for 2024/25) for 4 years full-time (pro-rata part-time), plus the half London weighting of £1,000 plus CDP maintenance payment and V&A travel expenses.

The University of Edinburgh and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (V&A) are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) studentship from September 2024 under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.

Project Overview:

This object- and archive-based CDP explores the formation, evolution and dispersal of the Museum of Practical Geology (MPG), from its establishment in 1835 to 1901, when c.4000 objects were absorbed by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (V&A). The diverse collection comprised raw materials, moulds, kiln furniture, fragments and complete ceramic objects; from models of kilns to Wedgwood’s copy of the Portland Vase to sherds from excavations of British ceramic factory sites. The MPG amassed this collection, dedicated to displaying raw materials as applied to industry and for ornament, through local, national and global trade networks which demonstrate British colonial power and an institutional programme proposing the supremacy of its arts and industries. The project aims to investigate how the MPG collections were classified and displayed and ultimately transferred to the V&A in 1901.

At a time of evolving discourses in the Decorative Arts, when ceramic art was categorised broadly within the natural sciences and ‘applied’ geology, and such terms were used almost interchangeably, the formation, evolution and dispersal of the MPG marks a pivotal and little-explored moment in the formation of ceramic histories and the broader history of applied arts museums. Despite the MPG collection at the V&A comprising over 3000 extant objects, and there being a wealth of associated archival material relating to it, the role that the ceramics played institutionally remains very understudied, as do the processes of and the reasons behind their dispersal. This project will situate the MPG and its collections within the sphere of Victorian museological developments, questioning what was collected and why, how the museum was received by contemporaries, and tracing the dispersal of its collection and its absorption into an art and design museum. This project aims to not only contextualise the MPG collections in London, but also consider its impact across regions, including ‘branch’ art and industry museums in Edinburgh, Dublin, Stoke-on-Trent, etc.

The history of the MPG is currently not represented whatsoever in any present V&A interpretation, in its galleries or online, and this PhD will be transformative for the curatorial interpretation and scholarly and public knowledge of this little-known aspect of its institutional history.

For more information on this PhD and how to apply, please visit our website.

Application deadline: 23 May 2024

Interview: 7 or 8 June 2024 (interviews will be held online)

PhD start date: September 2024