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Personal profile

Research interests

Dr Claire Wintle is a historian of exhibitions, museums and collections, with a particular interest in curatorial practice, exhibition design and the politics of representation. Her work explores the relationship between museums and processes of nationalism, imperialism and decolonisation, often with a focus on South Asia and the UK.

Claire is Principal Lecturer in Museum Studies and Art and Design History. She is the Course Leader for the MA Curating Collections and Heritage, a collaborative masters programme developed between the University of Brighton and Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove. Her teaching focuses on the ethics of contemporary museum practice, with an emphasis on widening participation in and access to cultural heritage. She is a member of the Management Board of University of Brighton's Centre for Design History and co-leads the Centre's academic strand on 'Museums, Archives and Exhibitions'.

Claire’s early research focused on nineteenth and early twentieth-century colonial collecting and display in and of South Asia, with a particular focus on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. Her monograph is entitled Colonial Collecting and Display: Encounters with Material Culture from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. She is currently working on two projects within a broader research agenda that examines the impact of exhibition and museum-making on imperialism and post-independence nation building during the middle years of the twentieth century.

- The first project focuses on curatorial practice in the UK between 1945 and 1980, using archival research and oral histories to consider how curators with responsibility for ‘ethnographic’ or ‘world cultures’ collections grappled with the professionalisation of their field, post-war recovery and the ‘end’ of empire. Claire is particularly interested in the lessons that can be learnt from historic examples of international networks, repatriation and exhibition making in our current ‘decolonising’ moment. With Ruth Craggs, she edited Cultures of Decolonisation, and has published widely on this theme. With her students, Kate Guy and Hajra Williams, she recently organised the major international conference Museum Exhibition Design: Histories and Futures, which also developed some of this work. The proceedings will be published by Routledge as Histories of Exhibition Design in the Museum: Makers, Process and Practice, with contributions from scholars, designers and museum professionals from Argentina, China, France, Germany, India, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the UK and US.

- The second project examines post-independence exhibitions of India in the UK and US (1947-1986), with an emphasis on shows generated by South Asian artists, designers and curators. Claire is especially interested in how exhibition making and cultural diplomacy probed the limits of national identity for cultural practitioners.

Claire is also in the process of initiating a new major interdisciplinary research project entitled ‘Curating Challenging Collections’. This will explore how museum practitioners today can cultivate professional resilience while working with historic collections associated with traumatic events and processes such as slavery, colonialism and sexual abuse. Working with professional associations and museums, as well as scholars and practitioners of health, cultural memory, and material culture, the project builds on Claire’s recent projects on curating decolonisation and colonial collecting to address the contemporary legacies of historic injustices in museums. The project is designed to support the wellbeing and mental health of a stretched museum workforce and contribute to improved working environments for curators, as well as support wider audience and community access to the collections themselves.

Supervisory Interests

Dr Wintle welcomes enquiries about projects on museums, exhibition design, collecting, cultural forms of imperialism, nationalism and decolonisation, especially in Britain, and the material and visual culture of South Asia.

Claire has supervised two PhDs to completion and currently supervises seven AHRC-funded PhD students. She  has examined postgraduate theses at SOAS, Leicester University, Royal Holloway, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Southampton and a further five PhDs at the University of Brighton. Her students focus on themes ranging from community engagement with museums to Australian textile design. She works with colleagues at the British Museum and the V&A to supervise Collaborative Doctoral Projects on subjects including the British Museum's relationships with museums in West Africa, South Asian donors to the British Museum, exhibition design at the British Museum and Korean collections at the V&A. She also works with colleagues at Shiv Nagar University in India to supervise a PhD project on Bihar Museum.

Scholarly biography

Claire read American Studies (BA Hons) and Art Gallery and Museum Studies (MA) at Manchester University before being awarded an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Studentship in the History of Art at the University of Sussex and the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove. Her research has been supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, the AHRC, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, the University of Cambridge’s Crowther-Beynon Fund, the Henry James Green Trust and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She has published in journals including The American Historical Review, History Workshop Journal and the Journal of the History of Collections. Her monograph, Colonial Collecting and Display: Encounters with Material Culture from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (2013), is published by Berghahn. She was a Caird Research Fellow at London's National Maritime Museum in 2013 and a Mid-Career Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art in 2018. She is an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Before coming to Brighton, Claire worked in collections, learning and public programmes at the Walker Art Gallery, World Museum Liverpool, Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, and Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove. She curated the exhibition Temple, Man and Tuson: Collecting the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and organized their international conference Objects, Images and Imaginings: Visual and Material Culture of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. She was the Secretary of the Museum Ethnographers Group between 2010 and 2014. She continues to work as a consultant to the museum sector and contributes to professional journals such as Museums Journal and the Journal of Museum Ethnography. In 2017 she co-curated the participatory exhibition Maps and Lives with Louise Purbrick and Lara Perry at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton.

Education/Academic qualification

Master, University of Manchester

Bachelor, University of Manchester

PhD, University of Sussex

External positions

External Examiner, MLitt Museum Studies, University of Aberdeen

Sep 2021 → …

Peer Review College Member (Academic), Arts and Humanities Research Council

1 Jan 202031 Dec 2023

Peer Review College Member (Non-HEI), Arts and Humanities Research Council

1 Jan 202031 Dec 2023

Member, Centre for Centre of Archaeology, Heritage and Museums, Shiv Nadar University

2020 → …

Contributing Editor, Journal of Museum Ethnography, Museum Ethnographers Group

Sep 2017 → …

Elected Fellow, Royal Historical Society

Nov 2016 → …

Keywords

  • AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)

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