Susan Newell


I worked as a curator and decorative arts specialist in museums and auction houses before studying for an MA (History of Design) at the Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum.  My interest in the history of geology during the nineteenth century developed after working as a curator in the Ceramics and Glass Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, where I became aware of a large and varied group of ceramics simply catalogued with the provenance ‘Jermyn Street Museum’.  This was the common name for the Museum of Practical Geology, the London home of the new Geological Survey, and I went on to research its ceramics collection (viewed as ‘applied geology’), for my MA dissertation. 

During my studies I will maintain my broad interest in the arts and science history and travel.  I am joint Chairman of The Glass Society, an organisation dedicated to the research, collecting and enjoyment of glass from all periods, and regularly publish in their magazine.  Until recently I served on the committee of the French Porcelain Society and organised a trip to Madrid for a specialist group of curators, dealers, collectors and connoisseurs in April 2018.  


Work Experience:

In 2017 I was employed on the 'Making the North' project as a Research Assistant for the University of Sheffield, scoping the collections, institutions and museums nationwide for objects relating to manufacturing in the North, c.1550-1750.  I also curated a display 'Tea Drinking in style at Dr Johnson's' as part of an event at Dr. Johnson's London home run by Yale University and the Research Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum: Intoxicants & Empire c. 1600-1800: Space and Material Culture.  Prior to my MA, I worked in the Ceramics Department of the museum as back-fill for the Senior Curator, Hilary Young during his full-time secondment to the Europe Galleries project (opened December 2015). This entailed researching and cataloguing in connection with the 'Europe' project; answering enquiries from the public (including academics, curators, etc.), and many other aspects of curatorial work.  I also undertook work as a freelance curator and valuer of ceramics and glass, working for Sotheby's, Nottingham Country Council, the Worshipful Company of Innholders and varous private clients.  My auction house experience also included almost ten years as a specialist for Bonhams in London, where I catalogued and valued items, managed clients (UK and European), as well taking auctions.  I have also worked in national and regional museums as a fine and decorative arts curator and exhibition organiser.  These included the Wallace, Collection and Tyne and Wear Museums.


'The influence of Alexandre Brongniart on the ceramics collections of the Museum of Practical Geology', Journal of The French Porcelain Society, 2018

'The Jermyn Street Collection'; an introduction to early ceramics collecting at the Museum of Practical Geology, c.1835-1855, Transactions of The English Ceramic Circle

'A French Stained Glass Panel in the Victoria and Albert Museum' and 'An intriguing glass belonging to a City of London livery company glass; a research conundrum', Glass Matters

'Manufacturer and museum: George Maw's relationship with the Museum of Practical Geology, c. 1867-1880', Northern Ceramics Circle Journal, 34, 


'Engraved Glass from North East England 1800-1860: The Ian Robertson Collection', The Ian Robertson Collection in context, (North Wraxall: Delomosne, )

The Sunderland Glass Services: A Reappraisal’, and ‘The Hartley Glassmaking Inheritance in Sunderland', Glass Association Journal

Research interests

My doctoral project focuses on the materials used in the teaching of geology in the early nineteenth century.  My main resource will be the archive relating to the charismatic and eccentric figure of the first Reader of Geology at Oxford, William Buckland (1784-1856). Geology was not a subject officially recognised by the University during the first half of the century and Buckland worked hard to transmit his passion for the subject to his students, and to consolidate his position.  He did this by assembling a collection which functioned as an essential part of his teaching and at the same time underpinned his research, publications and the theoretical development of the new discipline.  I will examine how and from whom Buckland amassed the many geological specimens,  diagrams and topographical views he used, as well as the casts, prints or models he acquired when original specimens were unavailable or impractical.  He enrolled his wife, Mary Buckland (née Morland), a noted collector and illustrator in her own right, in this project and a number of Mary’s geological views, complete with rivets for suspension in the classroom, survive together with her inscriptions and mounts on specimens.

I hope to compare Buckland’s efforts to establish the teaching of geology at Oxford with those at other important centres such as Edinburgh, Cambridge and the Geological Survey in London. A cross-disciplinary approach will characterise my project which straddles the history of science, collecting, museums, as well as the history of teaching, art and social history.


  • MA History of Design, Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016
  • BA, French with Spanish, University of Durham
  • Diploma in French, Institute of Linguists