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Designing in the Digitally Mature Museum (Advert Reference: RDF21/ADSS/DES/MASON

Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences

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Dr M Mason No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Newcastle United Kingdom Art Design Digital Media Heritage Studies Print Media Publishing

About the Project

Museums are undergoing a critical change as they are moving toward a digitally mature condition. The cultural heritage sector and research have started to refer to the digitally mature museum as a museum in which: digital practices are ‘everywhere and nowhere’; digital approaches are not necessarily limited to one corner of the organisation, such as its IT service, but spread across all museum practices; and “digital media is now an innate part of museum practice” (see “One by One: Building Digitally Confiden Museums” AHRC research 2018-2020). Digital technologies, competencies and capabilities, activity, and thinking are impacting rapidly on the nature of collections, learning, services; on audience behaviour and expectations; and on the ways in which museums can fulfil their (new) missions (Mason 2020,

This design research brings together two intertwined discourses – museum digital transformation and design practice – to examine how and why human-centred design enacts digital transformation in/for the digitally mature museum. Our thesis is that design brings into the museum practices new mindsets, capabilities, and activities that help to embrace and deliver change, and pursue digital transformation (Mason and Vavoula 2020).

Why is fostering design practices so crucial in the digitally mature museum? And why is studying those emerging practices important?

There are emerging evidence that human-centred design is a driving force within a wider landscape of the transformative museum (see the case of Derby Museums, Mason 2020 In particular, HCD promotes a creative/explorative culture and collaborative working practices to design for effective visitor experiences and services, and envisioning new organisational strategies where museum professionals are called upon to actively participate in design activities in collaboration with digital specialists, design consultancies, and stakeholders (including visitors and communities). Furthermore, Covid-19 has affected the design of future (online) visitor experiences (e.g. will museums still design touch-screen interactions?) and HCD approaches are becoming essential to respond to new challenges.

This study aims to understand these changes, how and why they are affecting and changing museum design practices and design culture. It is driven by a qualitative research approach based on interviews and ethnographic methods to conduct a study in/for museums (including the study of virtual teams increased during Covid-19).

The ideal candidate will have a degree in design or organisational studies (or neighbouring disciplines). They will be interested in cultural heritage. They will have an aptitude for qualitative research.

The supervisor for this project is Dr Marco Mason.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

·      Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.

·      Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

·      Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see 

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF21/ADSS/DES/MASON) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 29 January 2021

Start Date: 1 October 2021

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home students and includes a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2020/21, this is £15,285 pa) and full tuition fees.
* please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
• have settled status, or
• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
• have indefinite leave to remain or enter.


Mason, Marco (1st author) and Vavoula Giasemi, (in press). “Digital Cultural Heritage Design Practice: A Conceptual Framework.” The Design Journal: Int.l Journal for All Aspects of Design.
Mason, Marco, 2020. Visioning in the digitally mature museum. In Culture 24: Digital Pathways. Accessed 12th Nov 2020:
Mason, Marco, 2020. People first: visioning Derby Museums' online presence. In Culture 24: Digital Pathways. Accessed 12th Nov 2020:
Mason, Marco, 2020. “The Elements of Visitor Experience in Post-Digital Museum Design.” The International Journal of Design Principles & Practices (Annual Review)
Vavoula, Giasemi and Mason, Mason, 2017. “Digital Exhibition Design: Boundary Crossing, Intermediary Design Deliverables, and Processes of Consent.” The International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, 32(3), 251-271.
Mason, Marco, 2016. “The MIT museum glassware prototype: visitor experience exploration for designing smart glasses.” Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH), 9(3), 1-28.
Mason, Mason. 2015. “Prototyping and Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Digital Media Design Practice for Museums.” The International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, 30(5), 394-426.
Book chapters and a book proposal:
Mason, Marco, 2018. Design-driven Innovation, in “Museum Thresholds: The Design and Media of Arrival” (eds.) Parry, R. Page, R. Moseley, A. Routledge. 58-72.
Mason, Mason, 2017. Visitor Experience Design, in “The Manual of Digital Museum Planning”, Ali Hossaini (ed.), Rowman & Littlefield, MA, USA – Lord Cultural Resources (LCR).
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