Film and the Production of Knowledge at the Manchester Museum: A practice-based study

Student thesis: Phd


Non-fiction film shares a long and relatively uncharted history with the museum. Today, filmmaking is a widespread yet critically neglected area of modern museological practice. This practice-based PhD situates itself within these critical gaps to examine the knowledge producing potential of film archives and film practice at the Manchester Museum. Its primary historical sources are a group of taxidermy objects at the Manchester Museum, an archive of 16mm acetate films at the North West Film Archive and a collection of travel journals at Cheshire Archives and Local Studies. These diverse collections were generated by Maurice Egerton, the 4th Baron of Tatton in Cheshire during his travels in Africa in the first decades of the twentieth century. This thesis brings all three together for the first time since their moment of production. These collections recur throughout the thesis as I ask how film archives can complicate and enrich our understanding of collections and how filmmaking practice might continue to bring new types of knowledge into the museum and archive. Two research films are submitted with and discussed within the thesis. The first, ‘Living Worlds at the Manchester Museum’, adapts observational methods from visual anthropology to record objects and staff during the re-display of the mammal gallery at the Manchester Museum in 2011. The second, ‘Articulating Archives’ is the result of a creative collaboration in 2014 with Year 8 secondary school students and the institutions and archives named above. Within the production and analyses of these films I draw on diverse critical sources to suggest that film can illuminate properties of materiality, embodied knowledge and performed engagement that textual accounts fall short of capturing.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHelen Rees Leahy (Supervisor) & Petra Tjitske Kalshoven (Supervisor)


  • Actor-Network Theory
  • Knowledge production
  • Embodied knowledge
  • Co-production
  • Natural history
  • Film
  • Colonial Collections
  • Museums
  • Amateur filmmaking
  • Taxidermy
  • Practice-based research

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