Working at the intersection of museum ethics, communication and medical humanities, I have a strong track record developing thought provoking and inclusive research and programming that explore the histories of complex museum objects.
My research for the past decade has focused on some of the most culturally sensitive and complex museum objects: human remains. I have ten years of experience researching collections of Egyptian and other non-European human remains in European museum collections. My doctoral thesis was a cultural history of Egyptian human remains in European collections and contended that museums were trying to resolve ethical issues surrounding their human remains collections without exploring the historical and cultural contexts in which they had been collected and displayed; a concern that remains significant today. I have in particular an in-depth knowledge of the complexities of European medical and anthropological collections.
I have extensive experience creating physical and digital spaces to share and challenge narratives around material culture, bodies, ethics and inclusion in museums. The events I have curated interrogate the colonial past of human remains and other contested collections in medical museums and explore ways to stimulate public and academic engagement. For example, I chaired two live debates on human remains at the World Museum in Liverpool, led a day-long participatory workshop and collections tour at the Leicester Museum & Arts Gallery exploring human remains as displaced people, lectured young researchers at the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester on the ethical challenges of the display of Egyptian mummies and gave a talk to the Science Museum London staff on the history of Egyptian human remains in medical museums. I also organised the first professional symposium on human remains in museums at the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Science Museum, gathering 30 curators, researchers and museum directors, for a day of workshops on the future of human remains collections.
I am actively involved in questions of restitution and repatriation. As part of the Pitt Rivers Museum project Devolving Restitution (2021-2022), I explore innovative ways to engage the public and stakeholders with the restitution of African archaeology and of human remains. I strongly believe that communication and transparency, combined with a deep knowledge of the cultural and political contexts of museum acquisitions, should be at the forefront of inclusive museum practices.
For four years, I have been running one of the leading projects on human remains, Mummy Stories, a participatory platform engaging the public in becoming active contributors in the debate on human remains in contemporary museums. I was awarded the Future Leader Award at the University of Leicester for leadership in transforming museum practices.
My approach to inclusive and ethical conducts in museums extends to socially engaged practices and the inclusion of marginalized communities. I assisted with teaching for the leading Socially Engaged Practice in Museum and Galleries MA by distance learning at the University of Leicester. In 2018, I co-curated the first relabelling of the Leicester Museum & Art Gallery World Arts gallery, engaging over 30 refugees and asylum seekers in Leicester in the creative writing and production of new interpretative labels. For this project, I initiated a methodology of storytelling with consultation workshops with communities, and a radical approach to contemporary museology. I also sit on the advisory board of the Inclusion Team at the Wellcome Collection, consulting on the inclusion of individuals with invisible illnesses and disabilities. This links to my work as founder of The Lyme Museum, a virtual museum with touring exhibitions exploring the material culture of invisible illnesses and disabilities in medical museums. Both The Lyme Museum and Mummy Stories attest to my ability to develop cutting-edge, radical and engaging projects that communicate research to non-specialists, work with communities, and explore contemporary museology with, at their core, the fundamental idea that museums should be decolonial, accessible, and grounded in the contemporary world.