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Museum Factivism: Critical heritage practice, knowledge intermediation and visitor engagement (RDF20/BL/MOS/WILSON)

  • Full or part time

    Prof T Mordue
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 24, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Museums are fantastic storytellers, bringing the past to life and engaging a wide range of audiences. This makes them uniquely placed to act as mediators between experts and publics. Museums face challenging times, such as dealing with funding cuts and pressures to reach new audiences. Taking a position as mediators of the latest academic research offers museums the opportunity to achieve their goals, but acting as intermediaries poses many challenges. This is especially the case in relation to subjects, which demand normative responses to potentially damaging topics such as environmental change. Traditionally museums have avoided explicitly taking stances on politically sensitive topics, although many critics have demonstrated how doing so, through claims of authority, have been political in their own right. Nonetheless, museum professionals are reconsidering their roles as providers of facts, to perform activist roles, transforming visitor experiences and encourage publics to act on, rather than receive knowledge.

This project will examine challenges and opportunities for museums as they become factivists and negotiate their (re)positioning between diverse actors: funders, government bodies, universities, publics and schools. Drawing on tourism and event management, heritage studies and human geography, this PhD considers adoptions museum practices that seek to engage visitors in contemporary environmental and/or social justice issues.

This proposal developed in collaboration with Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle upon Tyne, its mission ‘To inspire curiosity, learning and debate through a stimulating, innovative and provocative science and cultural engagement programme with cutting edge university research at its heart’. The PhD playing a role in helping GNM achieve their goals, would contribute to university goals through this partnership. Aside from supporting its mission and strategic aims To facilitate powerful learning and To increase our social impact, the PhD would underpin development of innovative museum practices, whilst contributing to current academic debates within the sector.

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. RDF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020.

Start Date: 1 October 2020.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.


Wilson, S. & Hannam, K. (2017), The Frictions of Slow Tourism Mobilities, Annals of Tourism Research with Professor Kevin Hannam of Edinburgh Napier University.

Mordue, T. and Wilson, S., (2017), Angler and Fish Relations in the UK: ethics, aesthetics and material semiotics, Domestic Animals and Leisure & Wild Animals and Leisure.

Mordue, T., Dennis, N. 1 June ( 2017)Performing Jazz and the Jazz Constellation: movements, moments and connections, Marketing Theory.

Mordue, T. and Wilson, S., (2017), New urban tourism and new urban citizenship: researching the creation and management of postmodern urban public space, In: International Journal of Tourism Cities.

Wilson, S, Obrador-Pons, P (2013 ) The Nomadic Village: Communal Creativity and political subversion in temporary settlements in Travel, Tourism and Art (eds) Rajik, T and Lester, J.A Farnham: Ashgate.

Wilson, S, (2014)The Ethics and Fieldwork and Experimentation in Auto-Ethnographic Practice, Eds, (Hannam, K, Mostanezhad) Moral Encounters in Tourism, Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Swords, J. (2018) "Interpenetration and intermediation of crowd-patronage platforms" Information, Communication and Society, early view.

Swords, J. (2017) "Crowd-patronage – Intermediaries, Geographies, and Relationships in Patronage Networks." Poetics, 64, 63-73.

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