Vacancy: PhD Studentship in the Department of Museum Studies

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, Beyond Text programme
Perception and wellbeing: a cross-disciplinary approach to experiencing art in the museum Departments of Museum Studies & Engineering/The Art Fund

Closing date for applications: 4 July 2008
Tenure of studentship: 1 October 2008 to 30 September 2011
This is one of six awards made by the AHRC Beyond Text programme, details of which can be found at:
The award offers an exciting opportunity to pursue a fully funded PhD working in a cutting-edge area within leading centres of neuroscience and museum and heritage research and in partnership with the UK’s leading independent art charity. The successful applicant will be able to participate in vibrant research communities within the University of Leicester and in the dynamic world of a busy arts organisation. They will be co-supervised by Dr Sandra Dudley & Prof Rodrigo Quian Quiroga at the University of Leicester and David Barrie at the Art Fund. The studentship covers fees and the standard AHRC annual maintenance grant for three years of full-time study, plus an additional annual £1,500 maintenance payment provided by the AHRC and the Art Fund.
For more information on studying for a PhD at the University of Leicester, see

The project
For many working in the museums and galleries sector there is a belief that art has the potential to enhance wellbeing and quality of life. Is this true? Can art improve and even change lives? And if so, what is happening when it does? This project aims to combine approaches from neuroscience, aesthetics and anthropology to explore, contextualise and explain art perception and response in public display spaces. The project will transgress the limits of existing disciplinary methodologies in studying the perception of art objects, and form a new framework for research in this area; it will also contribute to knowledge and understanding of the impact of public art not only across a range of academic subjects but also in museum and gallery practice. The student will explore such areas as relationships between the sensory perception of art in the museum and the backgrounds of the research subjects; emotional, somatic and cognitive responses to art that may have short- or long-term impacts on well-being; and links with past experience. Research findings will be interpreted in relation to contemporary theories in aesthetics, material culture studies and neuroscience, and inform the non-academic partner’s work with museums, galleries, government and other agencies.

Research methods
In the past decade, within many academic material culture studies of engagements between people and objects there has been a growing emphasis on the embodied nature of human experience of the world. At the same time, much work in neuroscience has focused on how our brains perceive and make sense of the physical environment. In addition, anthropological research has demonstrated the extent of socio-cultural and other differences in how sense-perceptions are ordered, rationalised and linked to emotional and cognitive responses. We are, then, embodied beings dependent upon our physical senses for information about the world, though how we interpret and respond to the evidence of our senses is not purely biological but also dependent on our individual backgrounds and spatial and historical locations. A premise of the project is thus that comprehensive understanding of all this is dependent upon a range of academic disciplines and cannot fully be addressed by aesthetics, material culture studies, anthropology or neuroscience alone.

Data-collection for the project will centre on the in-gallery use of an eye-tracker, interviews, and immersive, ethnographic, participant observation. Subsequent data analysis and interpretation will involve the use of bioengineering software to analyse the data generated by the eye-tracker; social scientific software (N-VIVO) to identify particular trends and patterns in the qualitative data; and qualitative interpretation and nuancing of the findings.

Criteria and application process
The successful applicant will have the opportunity to make a highly original contribution to the development of a new, radically cross-disciplinary intellectual research framework and method, as well as to inform practice. She or he will:

• meet the AHRC’s academic criteria for doctoral study (see ‘Guide for Applicants’ at

• demonstrate genuine enthusiasm for the subject area and for art in museums and galleries

• hold a good honours degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline (this may include, but is not limited to, social anthropology, philosophy, engineering, biology, psychology) and usually also a Master’s level qualification in an appropriate subject

• demonstrate ‘scientific literacy’ and technical and mathematical competency

• show the potential to develop a range of advanced research skills suited to the needs of the project

• demonstrate the ability to work effectively in academic and non-academic environments and as part of a team

• meet the AHRC’s requirements for UK/EU residency.

In addition the successful candidate may also have some professional and/or previous research experience in the cultural heritage sector and/or in neuroscience or psychology. Some experience of computer programming and/or ethnographic research may also be an advantage.

A downloadable application form can be obtained from In this instance online applications are not acceptable.

Three copies of your application, including references, should be submitted by 4 July to:
Dr Sandra Dudley
Dept. of Museum Studies
105 Princess Road East
Leicester LE1 7LG

If you wish to discuss the project informally prior to application, you can contact Sandra Dudley.


Popular Posts