Dr Katy Bunning

Lecturer in Museum Studies

School/Department: Museum Studies, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 5723



Since 2018 I have undertaken research teaching and supervision in the School of Museum Studies in the area of racial equity and racial justice movements within the context of museums. Prior to this I worked for 13 years with the School on distance learning innovations. With an academic background in American Studies I completed a doctorate part-time which focused on the history of Black-led museum practice in the United States. In this project I traced the reception of key developments at the Smithsonian Institution during the late 20th Century which evolved against a backdrop of ‘colourblind’ and ‘post-race’ discourses within the sector. This research was published in my monograph Negotiating Race and Rights in the Museum (Routledge 2021). Building on these insights my current research is exploring the production and disruption of whiteness in contemporary UK museums.

My pedagogic research focuses on the design of accessible curricula and positive action initiatives to create a more inclusive postgraduate environment for museum studies and the wider professional sector. For this work I received a University Distinguished Teaching Fellowship in 2020. 


My research responds to the urgent need for museums galleries training programmes and professional bodies in the cultural and heritage sectors to actively challenge systemic racism and coloniality in order to become spaces that are designed with and for a wider range of people. Working closely with the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) this work has been funded directly by museums with additional funding for a collaborative PhD project in this area from the AHRC. I have gained a number of small University-led grants to develop research impact and a Wellcome ISSF grant for a Creative Fellow - artist Emii Alrai - to co-lead public engagement work on museums and ongoing forms of coloniality.

My research approaches involve collaborative action-led and interdisciplinary research teams to identify and disrupt the ongoing production of racism and systemic barriers to equity which stifle leadership risk-taking and transformation in the field. My research seeks to embed real-world outcomes through positive action approaches and seeks to support ongoing institutional cultural change.


Bunning, K. (2021) Negotiating Race and Rights in the Museum, Routledge.

Bunning, K. (2018) 'Ethnic heritage for the nation: Debating "identity museums" on the National Mall', in Watson, S., Barnes, A.J. and Bunning, K. (eds.) A Museum Studies Approach to Heritage. Leicester Readers in Museum Studies, Routledge.

Watson, S., Barnes, A. J. and Bunning, K. (2018) 'Introduction', in Watson, S., Barnes, A.J. and Bunning, K. (eds.) A Museum Studies Approach to Heritage. Leicester Readers in Museum Studies, Routledge.

Bunning, K., Kavanagh, J., McSweeney, K., and Sandell, R. 2015. 'Embedding Plurality: Exploring participatory practice in the development of a new permanent gallery'. Science Museum Journal, 3, Spring.


I supervise students doing cultural and historical studies of museums and heritage and exploring structural questions around participation collaboration and socially engaged practice. Topics of interest are community museums heritage and identity racial histories contemporary ethnographic museums diversity and decolonising discourses and practices and museum histories.

My current and forthcoming research students are working on:

Trauma and reconciliation in the context of indigenous histories in Canadian museums

Heritage identity and oil sponsorship in Canadian museums

National museums and local embeddedness in Taiwan

Community museums in China

Evaluating the impact of socially engaged practice

Colonial histories and practices within art museums


My teaching is focused on socially engaged practice museums race and decolonial practices. I lead the introductory module for the MA/MSc/PGDip in Museum Studies 'Contemporary Museum Contexts and an innovative 'virtual placement' module on the MA/PGDip/PGCert in Socially Engaged Practice in Museums and Galleries which is run jointly with National Museums Liverpool.

I have a particular specialism in flexible and distance learning pedagogies. In 2015 I played a significant role in developing the first Museum Studies MOOC ‘Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum’ which was developed collaboratively with National Museums Liverpool.

I have been awarded a University Distinguished Teaching Fellowship in recognition of my work on accessible and inclusive curricula for the University of Leicester. I am also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and currently act as the lead for distance learning developments and delivery in the School.

Press and media

I am happy to speak to themes of museums and racism including contemporary racial justice movements and museum responses to calls for change.
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