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  Digital Sovereignty and the Dataset: Data Visualisation and Decolonial Ways of Knowing and Using National Museums Liverpool’s collection data

   Faculty of Humanities Doctoral Academy, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

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  Dr Emma Martin, Dr Luca Scholz, Dr Christian Baars  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

  • Start date: 1 October 2024
  • Closing date for applications: 15 March 2024
  • Interviews: Week beginning 7 April 2024

The University of Manchester and National Museums Liverpool are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) studentship from October 2024. The studentship – funded by the North West Doctoral Training Partnership (NWCDTP) – will support PhD research at University of Manchester on the question of digital sovereignty through National Museum Liverpool’s Global Cultures collection dataset. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to adapt the project according to their own interests and to work across academic, museological, and digital contexts. The project will be supervised by Dr Emma Martin (Senior Lecturer in Museology, University of Manchester), Dr Luca Scholz (Lecturer in Digital Humanities), and Dr Christian Baars (Head of Collections Care, National Museums Liverpool). The student will be expected to spend time at both the University of Manchester and at National Museums Liverpool, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of NWCDTP CDA students and the PhD cohort at University of Manchester. The student will also have the opportunity to undertake placements in other relevant cultural institutions elsewhere. The studentship can be undertaken on either a full- or part-time basis. 

We encourage the widest range of applicants for this studentship and are committed to welcoming those from different backgrounds and non-standard pathways. We are particularly interested in hearing from candidates with embodied and lived experiences of the cultural contexts represented in National Museum Liverpool’s Global Cultures collection and candidates from originating communities, and/or with Diasporic and Indigenous heritage, and/or from the Global Majority.

All funded NWCDTP studentships, whether UK or International, will be eligible for a full award which includes a stipend to support living costs and fees at the standard UKRI home fee rate. It is crucial to note that we will only cover tuition fees up to the Home rate. International tuition fees are usually substantially higher than Home rates. In some institutions, these additional tuition fees may be paid for in the form of an additional bursary to the NWCDTP studentship, but in other cases it may be necessary for International candidates (including EU and EEA) to secure additional funding to cover the additional fees.

Project Overview

The research for this project will consider how to generate new understandings, visualisations, and uses for the collection data at National Museums Liverpool, specifically in relation to the Global Cultures collections. This collaborative project draws on a Critical Digital Humanities approach using data visualisation and ideas of ‘decoding’ digital heritage as the basis for interrogating the museum sector’s reliance on a widely used method of data visualisation for museum collections known as the relational collection database (RCDB). The project will take National Museums Liverpool’s RCDB as both a theoretical and practice-based research question. The project’s core aims are:

  • To appraise a dataset from NML’s RCDB relating to its Global Cultures collection and to re-conceptualise it as a culturally-responsive, accessible, communicative and transformative dataset from which others can form and share interrogations of their own.
  • To examine how decoding museum data supports digital sovereignty for a people and/or community currently displaced from its material culture.
  • To ask how developing data visualisation tools with and for users can challenge the primacy of the RCDB and produce decolonial digital counter-sites that centre diverse ways of knowing and being.

This project’s overall objective is to aid the wider museum sector in redressing the historical bias in its data visualisation tools and support work to make digital spaces and practices more inclusive and diverse.



  • Applicants should ideally have, undergraduate degree at first/upper second-class level; expect to receive a Master’s-level qualification in Digital Humanities, Museology, or a related subject area by the time of taking up the appointment, or be able to demonstrate equivalent postgraduate-level experience in a professional setting (including museum curatorship and related work in the cultural, heritage, and/or digital sectors).
  • Candidates should have been trained in disciplines where cultural and/or digital research and learning is important, such as museum studies, digital humanities, anthropology, or heritage studies. While not essential, some prior experience of data-visualisation and/or museum work would be welcome.
  • The studentship offers a distinctive opportunity to develop skills in museum-based data visualisation research with an internationally significant collection and institution. As such, students should demonstrate their interests and aptitude by addressing the unique possibilities of a studentship that will allow them to develop career-enhancing skills in museums, data visualisation and social justice, and to contribute to the cultural and intellectual life of both institutions.
  • As part of our commitment to challenging the under-representation of Black and Global Majority students amongst doctoral researchers, we particularly welcome applications from applicants who identify as from the Global Majority.
  • All applicants must meet UKRI terms and conditions for funding.


  • Applicants should email the following to [Email Address Removed] by 15 March 2024 at 5pm GMT.
  • Academic CV (max. 2 pages) including two named referees (one of whom should be your most recent academic tutor/supervisor).
  • Copy of first degree and Master’s degree transcripts (or anticipated grade if applicable).
  • Letter of application (max. 1,500 words max) outlining suitability for the studentship and how you anticipate approaching the research. This should include proposed research questions and suggested methodology. This can be guided by the questions above but feel free to interpret this according to your own interests.
  • A sample of writing. This could be a piece of academic writing (e.g., an MA dissertation); or a text written in the course of any current or previous employment or voluntary/community work. 
  • The successful candidate will be required to submit an online application. Full details:

All prospective students are strongly advised to first contact the lead supervisor, Dr Emma Martin ([Email Address Removed]).

Anthropology (2) Communication & Media Studies (7) Creative Arts & Design (9)

Funding Notes

Funding available: Home/EU fees at the standard RCUK rate; maintenance allowance of c.£ 19,237 pa (based on 2024/2025 rate). This NWCDTP CDA award is for 3.5 years.
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