Join our PhD community to study museums and participation

Inside-out and outside-in: Participatory Methods for Science and Technology Collections is a fully funded PhD in collaboration with the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.

The National Science and Media Museum (NSMM) is putting participatory approaches to science and technology at the core of its new Sound and Vision permanent galleries. The innovative core of this PhD is focused on linking the distinctive relational ontologies offered by the history of science and technology and science and technology studies with participatory practice.

The potential of this intersection of theory and practice will be pursued through two directions, inside-out and outside-in.

The student will work inside-out, exploring how taking a relational ontological approach to existing NSMM collections might offer new potentials for connecting to Bradford and the other local places with which it has very strong connections due to patterns of migration.

The student will also work outside-in, using modes of thinking and being offered by relational ontologies to undertake an embedded piece of research within communities in Bradford to surface new and important stories that would not otherwise be known or be able to figure in collections or displays.

The PhD will co-produce two collaborative case-studies to feed into the National Science and Media Museum Sound and Vision Project and delineate specific participatory methods for museums working with science and technology collections.

We’re particularly interested to hear from people who speak one of the main languages spoken in Bradford – Punjabi and Urdu being the most widely spoken after English.

The supervisory team will be Dr Helen Graham and Dr Liz Stainforth (University of Leeds), and Tim Boon and Sarah Ledjmi (National Science and Media Museum/Science Museum Group).

Geoff Belknap, Head Curator at the National Science and Media Museum, said:

"This project is part of ongoing work for the National Science and Media Museum to explore better ways of working with local communities and local voices.

"The appointed student will work closely with staff at the museum to create new, research led, approaches to participatory work around science and technology collections.

"The Sound and Vision Galleries, which form a key case study for this project, is the most significant gallery project in a generation for the museum, and offers an unparalleled opportunity to find ways to better represent our local audiences in the fabric of the museum."

Dr Helen Graham, PhD supervisor of the Inside-out and outside-in project, said:

"Participation remains a significant challenge for museums. This is because the political ontology of museums is based in separating people from things, the present from the future and inside from outside the museum in ways which put professionals in the position of mediator and decision-maker.

"Yet there are a rich variety of relational ontologies – including from Science and Technology Studies – which open up different ways of connecting people, materiality and time. It is the potential at the intersection between participatory museum practice and Science and Technology Studies this PhD will address.

"We’re really keen to hear from you if you are interested in museums and participation and have conceptual interests in relational ontologies, whether from Science and Technology Studies, Anthropology or Geography. You might have encountered Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing or Karen Barad in your undergraduate or postgraduate studies and felt excited. There is no need to feel fluent in these theories – just to see the potential and want to explore it."

Read the full details about this PhD opportunity and find out how to apply.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Tuesday 31 May 2022.

For informal conversations about this opportunity, please contact Dr Helen Graham.


National Science and Media Museum. Image courtesy of Science Museum Group.