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Museums and Public Heritage

The Centre has a strong research profile in the politics of museums (Gray 2015), new museology (McCall and Gray 2013) museum history, governance change (Rex, 2020) and the funding of museums (Rex, 2020). We have worked collaboratively with museums such as the Dean Heritage Centre on the Heritage Lottery Funded Dennis Potter Project, the National Media Museum in the British Academy funded Inheriting British Television project the People's History Museum on the AHRC funded Afterlives of Protest Network. We have interrogated not only the management of museums but also advised and supported their cultural work. For example, we have produced guidance to inform museum management in collaboration with the Association of Independent Museums and Arts Council England. We have also examined how the business models of cultural organisations adapt to changing pressures in a context where social and ethical concerns often prevail over financial goals. Case studies of Leicester Museum and Art Gallery sit alongside critical interrogations of public heritage and statues. As part of a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, Dr Bethany Rex has been undertaking research into Museum Funding in an Age of Austerity. This research takes a multifaceted look at the implications for museums and their staff of change in the role of local government. This project has produced new data analysis of spending patterns across the UK nations during the austerity period, and examined the many different ways policymakers and officials approach the idea of the 'museum'. It has also produced research on Museum Closures and Commercial Museums, which has involved fieldwork, looking at closures and commercial activity since 2008. These strands of research address how underlying assumptions and beliefs about museums merge with external financial, political and societal pressures to produce changes to organisational structures and cultures.

In addition, Dr David Wright has been researching the place of popular culture in 21st century memorials, and what the emergence of statues to comedians and pop musicians might say about the relations between culture, heritage and belonging in the contemporary UK. On a related theme, beginning in 2021, the Centre hosts a Midlands4Cities Collaborative Doctoral Award, co-designed with the Royal Society of Sculptors and co-supervised with Dr. Emma Parker from the University of Leicester on 'Contested Heritage: Memorialising a Diverse Society'.