Student Profile: Holly

PhD Topic
Can exploring identity work with museum professionals from a feminist perspective facilitate activism and change-making around inclusion, representation and equality within their organisations?
Portrait of Holly
Where did you study your undergraduate/masters?

I studied my BA in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, and my MA in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

Why have you chosen Leicester for your PhD?

The Leicester School of Museum Studies and its Research Centre for Museums and Galleries produce brilliant work bringing the museum sector forward, particularly in socially engaged practice, so I was really excited to be a part of the School. It is also where I did my MA in Museum Studies and I loved the supportive, friendly and passionate community there – I’m happy to be back!

Why have you chosen the Midlands Graduate School?
I love interdisciplinary working and building connections, so the MGS was a perfect fit. Also, I come from an arts and humanities background, so it has been really interesting to learn about social science research.

When did you decide you wanted to do a PhD?
Around the end of 2018.

Why did you decide to do a PhD?
From the end of my MA for 3 years I worked in museum sector support, organising networking and CPD for people working in heritage learning. Through lots of different events and conferences, I found the same stresses and concerns coming up again and again: largely a feeling that personal values and passions were being suppressed by organisational culture, despite colleagues sharing these priorities. I am passionate about museums becoming spaces for representation, inclusion and social change and supporting the workforce progressing this practice. I became interested in why this opposition between personal values and organisational culture was so pervasive and how the workforce could be empowered to change it, and felt that in-depth research with museum workforce participants was the best way to explore this and seek solutions. 

How did you go about looking for a PhD place?
I was lucky in having an existing relationship with Museum Studies Leicester. Due to working under quiet high pressure at the time of applying, I decided to apply to the university I was keen to return to and, if unsuccessful, widen my search the following application round. 

How did you find out about Leicester/MGS?
I contacted Leicester Museum Studies with my research interest and was directed to the MGS DTP as a source of funding. 

What do you think will be most enjoyable about your PhD?
Moving from humanities to social science has allowed me to use much more people-centred methodologies. I love talking to people and I’m excited to conduct research that is discussion-based and gets people involved. I’m also excited to work with the MGS cohort, everyone has such interesting projects and is really welcoming!

What do you think will be the most challenging about your PhD?
My research deals with the challenges faced by people at work. It could raise issues around conflict, dissatisfaction, discrimination or mental health. I need to make sure to handle conversations sensitively and deal with anything that comes up appropriately in the analysis.

Do you have any plans for after your PhD?

I’d like to see where it takes me! At the moment I am hoping to go back into working in museums and helping to use my findings to create change, potentially heading toward directorship in my later career.