Stuart Bowes

Stuart Bowes


I am currently undertaking an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the University of Leeds and the Royal Armouries. My research focuses on exploring the ethical dilemmas faced by institutions formulating access policies for public collections that are restricted by law. As the national museum for arms and armour, a large proportion of objects in the Royal Armouries collections are not only subject to museum policy but also to parliamentary legislation on offensive weaponry and harmful materials. I am thus analysing the existing policy and legislative frameworks regulating these collections, and the current procedures employed by the organisation’s registrars to facilitate access to them. To place these efforts in context, I am also examining the ethical principles underpinning the Armouries’ endeavours to facilitate public access to its collections and assessing the impact of these legacies on the museum’s contemporary policies.The ultimate objective of this PhD is to shape future strategies in managing restricted collections at the Royal Armouries and throughout the museum sector more widely.

As a part of this project I have been undertaking training as a registrar at the Royal Armouries, an extension of the established Registrars: Training for the Future programme (a collaborative training initiative developed by the University of Leeds, the Royal Armouries, and Leeds Museums and Galleries). By training as a registrar I am gaining first-hand insight into the dilemmas facing those tasked with developing access to legally restricted collections while simultaneously developing my professional practice. I am also in the process of conducting research interviews with the registrars and other collections management staff at the Armouries to ascertain their perspectives on the institution’s current access arrangements and canvas potential improvements to existing procedures.

I graduated from the University of Oxford with a BA in History in 2017. I then gained an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies from the University of Leeds in 2019. It was during the latter course that I developed an interest in pursuing further research into museums, particularly collections management, museum research, and their historical development. Before starting my PhD I worked in a variety of roles in the museum and cultural heritage sector. This includes a year I spent conducting the Money Collection Project Placement at Leeds Museums and Galleries, where I was responsible for documenting and reorganising its numismatic collections ahead of its ‘Money Talks’ exhibition. I was also a Library and Archives Assistant at the Royal Armouries, where I conducted research into its archives and collections for the HLF-funded Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield) Roll of Honour Project.

Research interests

My research interests cover a wide range of museological and historical subjects, as outlined below. In particular, I seek to examine the historical development of museums to contextualise the principles and actions of contemporary institutions. I am also interested in reconciling theoretical advances in museum studies with the practices of working institutions, as much work still needs to be done to bring these two traditions together. To this end, I am an active participant in the work of the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage to discuss contemporary issues facing the heritage sector and seek to formulate practical solutions.

Specific Research Interests:

  • The develepoment and current role of the museum registrar.
  • Historical and contemporary practice in collections management.
  • Formation and professionalisation of museum occupations.
  • Pursuit of research in museums and by museum professionals.
  • History of museums and their institutional development.
  • Formation of academic disciplines during the nineteenth century.
  • Relationship of museums to wider intellectual and cultural trends.


  • MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, University of Leeds
  • BA History, University of Oxford

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage