Personal profile

Overview

I teach on the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies programme. During the academic year 2023-24 I will convene the core module, Introduction to Museum Studies, and the optional module, Decolonise the Museum!

Overview

I am a Senior Lecturer in Museology and from 2003-2020 I was Head of Department/Senior Curator for National Museums Liverpool (NML). This role accounts for a significant part of my more than 25 years of experience as a curator of collections from South Asia, the Himalayas and Tibet. My research sits at the intersection of colonialism(s), Tibetan Studies, museum activism, and materiality and moves between contemporary museum practice in Tibetan exile contexts and historical research on Tibetan materiality in British colonial archives.  

As a practice-based researcher I act as curator/advisor to the Tibet Museum, a major museum development for the Central Tibetan Administration, otherwise known as the Tibetan government-in-exile (opened in 2022). I also led a series of interventions into the interpretation and display of the anthropology collections at the World Museum, part of National Museums Liverpool. The #WMWhereNext project challenges the relevance of culture-based displays in today's anthropology museum by experimenting with an issue and idea-led approach to interpretation. While at National Museum's Liverpool I also developed several contemporary collecting programmes including Tibetan Realities: Collecting Tibet and its Diasporas (2010-2020), a themed programme of collecting that brought together contemporary art (funded by the Art Fund), fieldwork collecting and commissioned works from Tibetan cultural institutions.

I am currently writing a monograph called, The Dissident Museum: Oppositional Curating at the Tibet Museum (Museum in Focus Series for Routledge) based on the methods used to develop curatorial practice during the Tibet Museum project. 

 

Research interests

My academic research focuses on reconstituting the museum roles and representations of Tibetans and Tibetan material culture past and present. I do this through the analysis of the historical record, namely colonial-era museums and archives and embedded, collaborative, practice-led research and critical reflection on contemporary museological practice. Specifically, I ask why museum-based framings of Tibet have remained largely untouched by the well-established processes of recovering and exposing the contested histories of colonial-era museum collections and how through contemporary museum practice Tibetans can address a lack of Tibetan agency in museum decision-making, both concerning the collecting of Tibetan objects, the representation of Tibet and the governance and management of museum and heritage spaces. With these questions in mind, I co-convene the international Tibetan Materiality Network, which brings together researchers from Europe and Asia for the purpose of sharing and collaborating on Tibetan and Himalayan materiality-based research.

I have published several articles and book chapters on Tibet-related colonial collecting, colonial-era Tibetan diplomatic gift exchange, and the challenges of representing contemporary Tibet in museums. I am currently writing a monograph called, The Dissident Museum: Oppositional Curating at the Tibet Museum based on the curatorial practices developed during the Tibet Museum project.

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

  • Editorial Board, Museum History Journal
  • Editorial Board, Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies
  • Visiting Lecturer, University of Copenhagen
  • Committee member for the Museum Ethnographers Group (MEG), conceived and responsible for MEG's A Repatriation Resource
  • Member, International Association of Tibetan Studies (IATS)
  • Member, Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
  • Member, Museums Association
  • Member, Museums and Galleries History Group
  • Fellow, Royal Asiatic Society
  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy

Supervision information

I welcome PhD applications in the following areas:

  • Collecting Histories in Tibetan, Himalayan, and South Asian contexts
  • Histories of museums and display in Tibetan, Himalayan, and South Asian contexts
  • South Asian, Himalayan and Tibetan Museology
  • Studies in South Asian, Himalayan and Tibetan Materialities
  • Museology and dissident community practice
  • South Asian, Himalayan and Tibetan Diasporic engagement with museum collections

Completed PhD Supervision

Elizabeth Gow: (2023). Enriqueta Rylands: A Study of Private Collecting and Public Philanthropy, 1889-1908, Department of Art History and Cultural Practices, University of Manchester.

Lewis Ryder: (2020). Museums, culture and the Hilditch collection: the contest for cultural authority in early twentieth-century Britain, Department of History, University of Manchester.

Current PhD Supervision

Lauren Barnes: Collecting in Context: Using a Global Histories approach to uncover and understand the histories and implications of collecting Korean art and culture by UK museums, from 1865 – 2020

Gumring Hkangda: Conflicted Objects: Histories of Violence, Trauma and Loss entangled in Kachin material culture from northern Burma/Myanmar (1960 – Present)

Chukyi Kyaping: Decolonising the sacred: Acknowledging the colonial experiences of Tibetan Buddhist collections in the British Museum (AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the British Museum)

Henriette Pleiger: Interdisciplinary Exhibitions and the Production of Knowledge

 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

External Examiner: MA Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture with Professional Experience, The University of Westminster

1 Sept 2023 → …

Curator/Advisor, Tibet Museum, Department for Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration

1 Jan 2018 → …

Senior Curator, National Museums Liverpool

1 Jun 200331 May 2020

Areas of expertise

  • AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
  • DS Asia
  • Tibet
  • Himalaya

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester
  • Digital Futures

Keywords

  • Museology
  • Materiality
  • Tibet
  • Himalaya
  • Dissidence
  • Culture Wars
  • Practice-led Research
  • Collecting Histories
  • Activism
  • Knowledge Production

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