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Louise Purbrick


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Personal profile

Research interests

Louise Purbrick is an art and design historian. Her research is devoted to understanding materiality and visuality. She focuses upon: sites of conflict and imprisonment, the spaces of industrial exploitation and exhibition, the art of political struggle and the attachments to domestic possessions in everyday life.

Louise works in collaboration with activists, archaeologists, artists, community groups and photographers. She is part of Traces of Nitrate collaboration:

Her current research examines how the past remains present in its material forms. She has a longstanding interest in the Long Kesh/Maze prison site, the now empty ‘icon’ of ‘The Troubles’ located ten miles south of Belfast, and has spent many years documenting the transformations of its cell units, the H Blocks. Her work on the AHRC funded Traces of Nitrate projects documents and interprets the abandoned architecture of mining in Atacama Desert in northern Chile and the legacies of the nitrate trade in Britain. It is published in a number of academic journals. She also exhibits alongside photographers Xavier Ribas and Ignacio Acosta.

Louise completed her D.Phil in Art History at the University of Sussex in 1993 and has since published much of her study of the industrial and material culture of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in articles and edited collections. Her exploration of the power of objects began with the fascination for the Crystal Palace but has since extended to museum practices and the material culture of everyday life. In The Wedding Present (2007, 2014), a contemporary analysis of the gift, she detailed the acts of preservation that constitute domestic domains and argued that consumption was not an adequate framework through which to view everyday life. Broadly, then, Louise is concerned with the entanglements between people and things, with human and material relationships.

Alongside research and writing, Louise works as a curator and artist. She is a member of the Re-making Picasso’s Guernica Collective and has worked with Healing Through Remembering on exhibition projects. In 2010, Brighton Museum and Art Galleries accessioned the collection from which she curated Rattling the Cage (2009), a community archive of documents, textiles, photography and film used in a campaign to free a Guantánamo detainee. Most recently, she worked with the Community University Partnership Programme (CUPP) on Art, Refuge and Resistance, an exhibition of documents and designs about the current conditions of refugees.

Louise Purbrick is interested in developing postgraduate research in the following areas: the materiality of conflict or that of everyday life, photography as material form art and political activism, exhibition and museum practices.

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wedding Social Sciences
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Research Output 2001 2018

Long Kesh/Maze: A Case for Participation in Post-Conflict Heritage

Purbrick, L., 20 Jul 2018, Heritage After Conflict: Northern Ireland. Crooke, E. & Maguire, T. (eds.). Abingdon, (Routledge Studies in Heritage).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterResearch

conflict resolution
correctional institution
fine arts

Postcards from Chile and Images from an Archive: Lighting the Nitrate of the 1973 Coup

Purbrick, L., 12 Nov 2018, In : Humanities. 7, 4, p. 1-17 17 p., 115.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access

Trafficking the Earth

Ribas, X., Acosta, I. & Purbrick, L., 16 Jan 2018

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibitionResearch

Research Projects
Natural Resources

Maps & Lives

Purbrick, L., 11 Nov 2017

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibitionResearch

capital investment

Mining Photography: The Oficina Alianza and Port of Iquique 1889

Purbrick, L., 1 May 2017, In : Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas. XXXIX, 110, p. 247-274 28 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
Photographic Album

Activities 2009 2019

Association for Art History

Annebella Pollen (Member of programme committee), Lara Perry (Member of programme committee), Louise Purbrick (Member of programme committee), Claire Wintle (Member of programme committee), Naomi Salaman (Member of programme committee), Matthew Cornford (Member of programme committee), Jeremy Aynsley (Member of programme committee)
4 Apr 20196 Apr 2019

Activity: EventsConference

Dress and Dissent

Annebella Pollen (Organiser), Louise Purbrick (Organiser)
4 Apr 2019

Activity: EventsConference

Engaging Mass Observation: New Perspectives on Contemporary Material

Annebella Pollen (Organiser), Louise Purbrick (Participant), Gurmukh Bhatti (Participant)
12 May 2009

Activity: EventsConference