Dr Robert Knifton

Dr Robert Knifton


My research focuses on the sensory environment of museums; digital collecting, popular culture, museums and archiving; defining heritage within shifting cultural ecologies; and the history and heritage of art education.

My work is developed through collaborative practice and research around museum and heritage sites. Before joining the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, I worked at the Visual and Material Culture Research Centre at Kingston University London, where I co-curated the HLF-funded project Histories in the Making, examining the history and heritage of Kingston School of Art.

Previously, I was researcher on the AHRC Beyond Text project Collecting and Curating Popular Music Histories at the Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool, where I co-curated Mixcase: Music Memory Traces (Victoria Gallery & Museum, 2011), co-ordinated the international conference Sites of Popular Music Heritage and co-edited its publication (Routledge). I initially studied Politics and Modern History (Manchester), before undertaking an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies (Manchester). In 2007 I co-curated Centre of the Creative Universe: Liverpool and the Avant-Garde for Tate Liverpool, as part of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Project with Tate and Manchester Metropolitan University.

  • The sensory environment of museums
  • Digital collecting and archiving
  • Popular culture, heritage and museums
  • Defining heritage
  • The history and heritage of art education

I teach on the MA programmes in Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Arts Management and Heritage Studies, and also modules for BA Fine Art.


  • Programme Director for MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies

Research interests

Current research projects include the AHRC-funded Life on the Outskirts: Making Sense and Use of a Creative Life, for which I am PI, alongside Dr Alison Slater at Manchester School of Art (Co-I) and Helen Storey Foundation, project partner. The project looks at alternative and creative methods of incorporating small creative archival collections into art education teaching and learning, drawing on the work of Helen Storey, a former fashion designer and social artist working via the medium of dress to focus on social and ecological issues such as climate change and the refugee crisis. Visit https://www.lifeontheoutskirts.org/ to find out more.

I led the HLF-funded Chilean mural project for University of Leeds, leading to the re-interpretation and restoration of a political mural painted in the 1970s by Chilean political exiles in Yorkshire escaping the dictatorship of General Pinochet. More information about the mural, Y Habra Trabajo Para Todos (And there will be work for all) is available online.

In 2018, I am a project partner for the UK Parliament community arts outreach project First Waves, which examines the impact and legacy of Race Relations legislation in the United Kingdom. Artist-in-Residence at Parliament, Scarlett Crawford has developed the project, and the project lead for University of Leeds is Professor Iyiola Solanke in the School of Law. 

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award at Manchester Metropolitan University and Tate Liverpool.
  • MA Art Gallery & Museum Studies, University of Manchester
  • BA Politics & Modern History, University of Manchester

Student education

My teaching is primarily focused on museums, galleries and heritage at MA level, where I am part of the team who teach across the  Art Gallery and Museum Studies and Arts Management and Heritage Studies Masters programmes. I am also involved in teaching at BA level, focusing on professional practice for fine artists.

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>