Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships

Student historian Pius Cokumu looking at Luo photographs, Kenya at the Pitt Rivers Museum

The Oxford University Museums AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) commenced in 2016 and offers up to three fully-funded doctoral studentships per year. Oxford's CDP studentship programme is led by Dan Hicks (Pitt Rivers Museum). The scheme operates across the four museums of Oxford University - the Ashmolean, the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Each CDP studentship is jointly supervised in partnership between one or more of Oxford University Museums and academics from UK Higher Education Institutions (HEI). The partner HEI administers the studentship, receiving funds from the AHRC for the student’s fees and maintenance in line with a standard AHRC award. In addition to this full studentship award for fees and maintenance, Oxford University Museums provides up to £2,000 per annum per student to cover the costs of travel between the HEI and Oxford, and related costs in carrying out research. Studentships can be based at any UK HEI apart from Oxford University.

The Collaborative Doctoral Studentships will involve research that helps us to develop new perspectives on our collections and to share knowledge more widely and effectively with a range of audiences, while also training a new generation of scholars working between the academic and heritage sectors.

2018 CDP Student Projects at Oxford University Museums

The third round of Oxford University Museums Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships began in October 2018, in partnership with University College London and the University of Leeds. 

Nature of replication: Natural History Museums & the circulation of casts and models
Casts and models of the 'Oxford dodo'

Casts and models of the 'Oxford dodo'

This project is based at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, in collaboration with Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH). It will explore and reassess the history, significance and curatorial future of natural history cast collections. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, plaster casts, models and replicas were key to sharing unique and rare specimens between museums for scientific scrutiny, museum display and as ‘backups’ to the originals. Starting with examples from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, which holds the ‘Oxford dodo’, one of the most replicated museum objects in the world, this project would look at the cultures of casting and modelling. It will explore the different techniques used in manufacture, key individuals who sold them, existing catalogues, invoices and correspondence in museum archives and the networks of museum curators who commissioned, swapped and shared this material.

This project will piece together the history of cast production as way of sharing ideas as well as examining how museums can best record, promote and display these sometimes second class objects today. It also links to current research being undertaken by OUMNH explore the use of the next generation of 3D visualisation and prototyping in museum spaces, together with the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of user experience.

The studentship is jointly supervised by Dr Alice Stevenson (University College London) and Mark Carnall (Oxford University Museum of Natural History). 

Museum Collections, Academic Teaching, and the Making of Geology in the Nineteenth-Century University
William Buckland lecturing

William Buckland lecturing in 1823

This project is based at the University of Leeds, in collaboration with Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH) and the Ashmolean Museum. We will explore the origins of object-led teaching in the nineteenth-century university and connect this to the current resurgence of interest in the use of museum collections as a teaching resource. The project will be rooted in the extensive source materials in the OUMNH relating to the history of geological teaching, including collections of specimens, models and large-scale lecture diagrams as well as lecture notes, correspondence, and institutional records. Focusing on Oxford’s first Reader in geology, William Buckland, and his successor, John Phillips, it will draw on a wide range of evidence to analyse the ways in which they used these materials to teach and develop the science of geology. The findings will be contextualised through extensive comparative research on coeval developments at other universities and provincial museums.

Through the investigation of the role of both university teaching and of material and visual culture in the development of the disciplinary sciences, with a particular focus on geology, the project will encourage a reappraisal of the approaches used in the teaching of this discipline today. Working with staff at Oxford University Museums, the student will also have the opportunity to put the research findings to practical use by contributing to their public engagement programmes.

The studentship is jointly supervised by Dr Jonathan Topham (University of Leeds), Ms Eliza Howlett and Ms Kathleen Diston (Oxford University Museum of Natural History) and Dr Jim Harris (Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology). 

2017 CDP Student Projects at Oxford University Museums

The second round of Oxford University Museums Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships began in October 2017, in partnership with the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester, and Birkbeck University. The studentships were awarded to Abbey Ellis, Helen Goulston and Beth Hodgett, details of their research are provided below.

Archaeological Plaster Casts: In Search of Authenticity

Abbey Ellis (University of Leicester in partnership with the Ashmolean Museum)

Supervised by Dr Sandra Dudley (Leicester), Dr Milena Melfi and Professor Bert Smith (Oxford)

Abbey Ellis

Abbey graduated from Merton College, Oxford in 2016 with a first class BA in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History. In 2017, Abbey achieved a distinction in her Masters degree in Classical Archaeology, also at Merton. Throughout her studies, Abbey was a regular volunteer at the Ashmolean Museum and a founding member of the Ashmolean’s Student Creative Board. Abbey also served as Oxford University Archaeological Society president, and was active in archaeological fieldwork, excavating at the Sangro Valley Project and at the site of Lefkandi, Euboea. In 2016, Abbey was awarded funding from the Roman Society for an internship at the Great North Museum, Newcastle.

Abbey’s CDP project is split between the University of Leicester, where she is supervised by Sandra Dudley, and the Ashmolean Museum, where she is supervised by Bert Smith and Milena Melfi. Her work is set in the Cast Gallery and focuses on the value, authenticity, and uses of archaeological plaster casts, namely the exact replicas of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures made from Plaster of Paris. 

Abbey’s project seeks to redefine how the authenticity and value of plaster casts can be understood. She aims to achieve this through an investigation into the use and status of plaster and the technique of casting in the ancient world. In addition, as part of a visitor studies focused phase of her project, Abbey seeks to examine the perceptions that museum visitors currently have of casts. She will be exploring to what extent visitors to the Ashmolean Museum view casts as authentic and worthy of display in the museum. She will be investigating whether current museum displays are doing enough to present these casts as objects in their own right, as opposed to merely being stand-ins for ancient original sculptures.

Where Art and Science Meet: Art and Design at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Helen Goulston (University of Birmingham in partnership with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History)

Supervised by Dr Clare Jones (Birmingham) and Professor Paul Smith (Oxford)

Helen Goulston

Helen recently completed an MA in Decorative Arts and Historic Interiors at the University of Buckingham, achieving a Distinction and receiving the prize for the best performance by a postgraduate Art History student.  The course allowed her to develop her knowledge of decorative arts from the late 17th century through to the 19th century, whilst placing them in their architectural and historical contexts.  The MA culminated in a dissertation on the historic decorative arts display at The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857.  Prior to that Helen was an auctioneer and valuer for ten years; this provided her with invaluable hands-on experience of decorative arts across a wide range of eras and mediums. During this time she also qualified as a gemmologist, achieving FGA status.

For Helen’s doctoral project, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, she is researching the interior decorative scheme of the Museum. The Museum was intended as a centre of scientific learning for Oxford University. Henry Acland and John Ruskin were leading figures in the early development of the project, with the Dublin-based architects, Deane and Woodward, winning the building design competition in 1855. By 1859 work had begun on the interior fittings and by 1860 the Museum was open.

The interior includes portrait statues and busts, decorative stonework and ironwork, as well as murals and bespoke furnishings.  Helen will be examining and recording these objects and complementing this with research in the Museum’s archives.

Helen wishes to examine the function and effect of these decorative objects in a museum dedicated to scientific education. She is particularly interested in the role of a museum in university education. Helen is looking forward to this being an interdisciplinary project, assessing the art and design of the Museum in relation to institutional history, history of collections, museology and the development of different scientific disciplines.

Visual Archaeology: the photographic character of the archaeology of OGS Crawford

Beth Hodgett (University of London, Birkbeck in partnership with the Pitt Rivers Museum)

Supervised by Dr Lesley McFayden and Dr Jennifer Baird (Birkbeck) and Professor Chris Gosden and Dr Chris Morton (Oxford)

Beth Hodgett

Beth Hodgett has a BA in Theology, and an MSc in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology from the University of Oxford. She has also dabbled in Fine Art, Photography and Art History. Beth has completed several voluntary placements at the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury and in the photographic collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum. In 2015 she completed a year-long internship at the Birkbeck Institutes of the Humanities and Social Research, during which she co-organized the Institute’s graduate conference. Her research on Francesco del Cairo’s “Martyrdom of St Agnes” has been published in the University of Leiden’s LUCAS Journal.

Beth’s research investigates the photographic archive of archaeologist OGS Crawford (1886-1957). Crawford was a prolific photographer and today approximately 9,600 of his photographs are housed in the Oxford Archaeological Institute. Previous studies have highlighted his pioneering role in the use of aerial photography in archaeology, and have demonstrated how his journal Antiquity was adopted by the neo-romantic movement during the inter-war years.

Due to the wide-ranging nature of Crawford’s subject matter, Beth’s research takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on photographic and material culture theory, as well as insights from archaeology and anthropology to investigate how knowledge of landscape and architecture is produced through photographic and archival practices. Beth is especially interested in the ‘seriality’ of photographs; exploring how photographs from the archive might relate to each other in time and space, and how this might be used to retrace Crawford’s own movements around the globe. The research also addresses the materiality of the archive itself, and considers its onoing life into the present day. 


2016 CDP Student Projects at Oxford University Museums

The first round of Oxford University Museums Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships began in October 2016, in partnership with the University of Warwick and the University of Cambridge. The studentships were awarded to George Green and Emily Roy, details of their research are provided below.

Gold Coinage in the Roman World

George Green (University of Warwick in collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum)

Supervised by Professor Kevin Butcher (Warwick), Professor Christopher Howgego and Professor Mark Pollard (Oxford)

George Green

George gained a First Class undergraduate degree in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at Christ Church, Oxford in 2015. He won the Thomas Whitcombe Greene Prize for the best performance in Classical Art and Archaeology, and the Gibbs Prize in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History for his dissertation on coin hoarding in late Republican and early Augustan Spain. During his undergraduate studies he excavated part of a Roman port town in Menorca with the Sanisera Field School. George studied for a Masters Degree at Regent’s Park College, Oxford which focused on Roman numismatics, materials analysis and the archaeology of the middle Imperial period. He graduated with a Distinction in 2016.

George’s CDP doctoral project is undertaken as part of a collaboration between the University of Warwick and the Ashmolean Museum. He is studying the metallurgy and circulation of Roman gold coinage of the first century BC to fifth century AD, in order to define its significance within Roman society and the Roman economy. It will draw on the combined expertise of Warwick and Oxford in historical metallurgy, scientific analytical techniques, and monetary history.

George’s research will combine evidence for metallurgy and circulation to enable an increased understanding of the relationship of gold coinage to the development of Roman society and economy. It will aim to produce a reliable set of metallurgical analyses for Roman gold coinage, a set of data on metal sources and production technology, a new set of metrological data, and a delineation and analysis of patterns of circulation and deposition over time. George will use the representative sample of over 600 Roman gold coins held by the Ashmolean Museum as the basis for his metallurgical study. He will also make use of existing data on gold coinage in the Oxford Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire Project.

More information can be found on the Ashmolean Museum website

Modernization, cultural exchanges and innovation in Russian print culture: St Petersburg in the Talbot Collection

Emily Roy (University of Cambridge in collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum)

Supervised by Dr Rosalind Blakesley and Dr Wendy Pullan (Cambridge) and Professor Catherine Whistler (Oxford).

Emily Roy

Emily completed her BA in History of Art at Oxford in 2010. After internships in the Ashmolean Print Room and Waddesdon Manor (National Trust), she completed her MA in Russian Studies at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, UCL. Emily returned to work at Waddesdon Manor in 2012 where she has held a range of curatorial and collections management roles, most recently that of curator.

Emily’s CDP doctoral project is undertaken as part of a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum. Emily’s research uses an interdisciplinary approach to examine key questions on modernization, the city and cross-cultural exchanges in Enlightenment and 19th-century Russia. The primary, unpublished research material is found in the Talbot Collection in the Ashmolean Museum, a unique and virtually unknown resource of c.1000 prints dating from the early 18th to the mid-19th century, whose imagery relates to the construction and character of St Petersburg as an imperial capital. This collection was assembled in the west during the Soviet era by Gwenoch David Talbot (d.1972), who had been a successful businessman in pre-revolutionary Russia.

The engravings, etchings and lithographs that he amassed testify to the vitality and range of print culture in Enlightenment Russia, revealing state-sponsored initiatives, entrepreneurial outputs, the adoption of new technologies, and the existence of transnational networks of production and publication. These and other issues will be examined to illuminate the nature of print production and dissemination within the context of Russian modernization and urbanization, against a backdrop of rapid social and political change.

More information can be found on the Ashmolean Museum website 


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