Dr Rosemary Shirley

Associate Professor Museum Studies

School/Department: Museum Studies, School of



I am an Associate Professor in Museum Studies. I joined the School in 2019. Previous to that I taught Art and Design History, Fine Art, and Curating at Manchester School of Art. I completed my masters in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London, and my PhD at the University of Sussex. I am interested in how rural places are imagined and represented in contemporary and historical art, by heritage organisations and in popular culture. This has led me to write about topics as diverse as litter, motorways, folk customs, migration and electricity. My passion is for working on creative projects across the fileds of research, writing and curating.


I have published widely on the idea of the rural including my monograph Rural Modernity Everyday Life and Visual Culture (Routledge 2015). I enjoy working with arts and heritage organisations on research and curatorial projects. I worked with the Whitechapel Gallery and partners including Istanbul Biennial, Wysing Art Centre, Myvillages, and Aberystwyth University on the research project The Rural: Contemporary Art and Spaces of Connection, generating a programme of events and international conference and a publication. I co-curated (with Verity Elson) Creating the Countryside a large scale exhibition at Compton Verney (March-June 2017) featuring the work of over 100 artists including Gainsborough, Turner, Constable, Grayson Perry, Ingrid Pollard, Anna Fox, Georgina Barney, and Rebecca Chesney. 


R. Shirley (2015) Rural Modernity, Everyday Life and Visual Cultures Farnham: Routledge.

Edited Collection
V. Elson and R. Shirley (2017) Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll Past and Present London: Paul Holberton Publishing.

Book Chapters
R.Shirley (2019) 'Rurality, Place and the Imagination' in The Routledge Handbook of Place by Tim Edensor, Ares Kalandides and Uma Kothari (Eds.), London: Routledge.
R Shirley (2019) 'Keeping Britain Tidy: Litter and Anxiety' in Rural by MyVillages (Eds.), London: Whitechapel and MIT Press.
R Shirley (2018) 'Performing the Village' in Rurality Re-Imagined: Villagers, Farmers, Wanders and Wild Things by Ben Stringer (Ed.), San Francisco and New York: ORO Editions.
R Shirley (2018) 'Cultures of Connectivity: Visual Representations of a Networked Countryside in the Early Twentieth Century' in  Rural Modernity: A Critical Intervention by Kristen Bluemel and Michael McCluskey (Eds.), Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
R. Shirley (2017) 'The Wide Margins of Modernity' in Companion to Modern Art by Pam Meecham (Ed.) Oxford and New York: Wiley Blackwell.

Journal Articles
J. Lee and R. Shirley ( 2019) 'A walker's guide to littered landscapes: An exploration of interdisciplinary, imaginative and collaborative modes of attention' in Green Letters
R.Shirley (2017) 'Festive Landscapes: The contemporary practice of Well Dressing in Tissington' Landscape Research V.42, 2017 pp.650-662.


I welcome PhD enquiries in the following areas: Landscape, spatial cultures, place orientated studies, contemporary art and rural places, representations of landscape/countryside in visual culture, art history, heritage organisations, and popular culture, curatorial strategies, public programming, the study of everyday life, modernism/modernities, folk cultures, and craft.

I am currently first supervisor on the following PhD research projects:

What are the factors influencing rapid response collecting in British museums in their acquisition of artefacts relating to Covid-19, and how will they contribute to British collective memory of the pandemic? (Lucy McPherson)

Bradgate Park beyond the University of Leicester: new ways of thinking about the engagement and impact of archaeological research within non-academic communities. (Jodie Hannis)

And second supervisor on:

Art Academies in the Revolutionary Art World from 1979 to 1989 in China. (Jianan Qi)



I am module leader for the Practice module across the campus based and distance learning programmes, where students work with some of the most exciting musuems and galleries in the UK and internationally. I also teach on the MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies modules: Entering the Field and Locating Art, and on the MA/MSc Museum Studies Education Specialism.

Press and media

I am happy to talk to the media on subjects including: Contemporary Art, Rural Heritage, Countryside Culture, and Landscape Art.

I have appeared on BBC Radio 4 Front Row, BBC Radio 3 The Verb, and various local radio stations.


Henry Moore Institute Research Fellow 2015-16



Rural Design Days, Silicon Vilstal, Lower Baveria, Germany, March 2022. 

New Perspectives on the Rural University of the Arts Norwich (Keynote) Dec 2020.

Life Course: Narrative and Landscape University of Reading Nov 2020.

Art and the Rural Imagination Arts University Bournemouth and MTP June 2020.

Art and the Environment London Art Fair Jan 2020.

New Lives New Landscapes University of Northumbria Aug 2019.

Launch of ERC funded project: Rural Imaginations University of Amsterdam June 2019.

The People’s Landscapes University of Oxford May 2019. 

College Arts Association New York Feb 2019.

Modernism: Making Protest and Place Queen Mary University Nov 2018.

Rethinking Landscape Whitechapel Gallery London March 2018.

Hyper-Rural Symposium Manchester School of Architecture Nov 2017.

Artists in Rural Contexts Symposium (Keynote) Chrysalis Arts Development Oct 2017.

Neverends: Art Music Text in Place Seminar Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre April 2017.

Rural Futurism School of Architecture University of Brighton Feb 2017. 


My undergraduate degree was in Fine Art at Winchester School of Art followed by an MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths University of London. I completed my PhD at the University of Sussex in 2012 supervised by Professor Ben Highmore.

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