Reminder: deadline 23 April 2018


“Museum Collections, Academic Teaching, and the Making of Geology in the
Nineteenth-Century University”: AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Studentship


The School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science, University
of Leeds, in collaboration with Oxford University Museum of Natural History
and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology are pleased to announce the
availability of a fully funded 3-year PhD studentship to explore the
origins of object-led teaching in the nineteenth-century university and
connect this to the current resurgence of interest in the use of museum
collections as a teaching resource.


This studentship is funded through the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral
Partnership scheme (see Collaboration between a
Higher Education Institution and a museum, library, archive, or heritage
organisation is the essential feature of these studentships.


It is a fully funded research studentship covering 3 years of tuition fees
and maintenance (living costs), with additional funds available to support
some research costs. There is also the option to apply for up to 6 months
additional funding for related professional development (see The studentship is
covered by standard AHRC eligibility rules.


The student will be jointly supervised by Dr Jonathan Topham (University of
Leeds), Ms Eliza Howlett and Ms Kathleen Diston (Oxford University Museum
of Natural History) and Dr Jim Harris (Ashmolean Museum of Art and
Archaeology). The student will be enrolled at, and will receive their PhD
from, the University of Leeds, but will be expected to spend time in both
Leeds and Oxford, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of AHRC CDP
students across the UK.


The successful candidate will begin their PhD in October 2018. They will be
primarily based at the University of Leeds Centre for the History and
Philosophy of Science, one of the leading groups in the UK for the history
of science and technology. They will also work in partnership with Oxford
University Museum of Natural History, one of the oldest natural history
museums in the world, and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology,
which is world-famous for its University Engagement Programme and the place
where Buckland did his own object-based teaching.


The Project 


In recent years there has been a ‘material turn’ in the humanities and
social sciences that encourages researchers to look at the roles that
objects play in human action as well as signification. Many university
museums have sought to exploit this shift in order to reassert the
importance of their collections – and objects more broadly – as a
teaching resource. This study situates such modern initiatives in a larger
historical frame, exploring the origins of object-led teaching in the early
nineteenth-century, when Oxford’s first Reader in geology, William
Buckland, routinely employed objects and illustrations in his lectures.
Focusing on Buckland and his successor, John Phillips, the project draws on
a wide range of evidence to analyse the ways in which they used these
materials to teach and develop the science of geology.


The project is rooted in the extensive source materials in the OUMNH
relating to the history of geological teaching, including collections of
specimens, models and large-scale lecture diagrams as well as lecture
notes, correspondence, and institutional records. This detailed work on
Oxford will be contextualized through extensive comparative research on
coeval developments in the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cambridge,
and London, the Geological Survey’s Museum of Practical Geology, and
provincial museums such as that of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary
Society. The project will investigate the role both of university teaching
and of material and visual culture in the development of the disciplinary
sciences, with a particular focus on geology. It will thus encourage a
reappraisal of the approaches used in the teaching of this discipline
today, including comparisons between nineteenth-century illustrative
materials and modern-day digital visualisations such as virtual reality.


In addition to producing a thesis in the history of geological science, the
student will work with museum staff to put the research findings to
practical use. In the Museum of Natural History, the student will
contribute to an online catalogue showcasing key images and objects from
the historic teaching collections and exploring their biography from the
nineteenth-century to the present day. Objects and images researched during
the project will also be used to develop sessions for Oxford, Leeds and
other Higher Education students through a partnership between the Museum of
Natural History and the Ashmolean University, in which the student will be
involved. The student will also be encouraged to participate in public
engagement activities based on the objects and their findings.


Financial Support


Subject to standard AHRC eligibility criteria, the studentship will cover
tuition fees at home/EU rate and provide a maintenance award at RCUK rates
for a maximum of 3 years of full-time doctoral study from 1st October 2018
with the option of up to 6 months additional funding for related
professional development (see


In addition, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History will provide
research expenses of up to £2,000 to the student each year, to a maximum
of £6,000 over the duration of the studentship, to cover costs associated
with undertaking research in Oxford.


The University of Leeds, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History
and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology will supply appropriate
facilities to support the research project and limited additional funds for
archive visits and conferences.




We are looking for a highly promising and suitably qualified student who
will value the opportunity of combining academic research with close
involvement in the work of a leading British museum.  Applicants should
have a strong academic record including a high Merit or Distinction (or
equivalent) at Masters level in a relevant discipline such as history
(especially history of science or education), museum/heritage studies, or
visual culture studies, along with a willingness to work across these
disciplines while being based primarily in a history of science context.
Previous experience of work in museums or archives would be an advantage
but is not essential.


Please note that all applicants must meet the AHRC’s academic criteria
and residency requirements (see


Candidates should:


1. Hold a Masters degree.

2. Be a resident of the UK or European Economic Area (EEA).


In general, full studentships are available to students who are settled in
the UK and have been ordinarily resident for a period of at least three
years before the start of postgraduate studies. Fees-only awards are
generally available to EU nationals resident in the EEA. International
applicants are normally not eligible to apply for this studentship


The successful applicant will be expected to reside in Leeds when not
undertaking work at the Oxford museums or research elsewhere.


How to Apply


Candidates should apply by the deadline of 5pm Monday 23 April 2018 via the
University of Leeds research postgraduate web application service (  Your
application must include:


· Copies of all transcripts and degree certificates.

· A writing sample of your work.  This should be a relevant academic essay
on a question of your choice which must be no less than 3–4,000 words. 

· A letter of application (maximum 1000 words) explaining how your current
academic interests relate to the doctoral project, your reasons for
applying for the studentship, and how your prior education and other
experiences have equipped you to undertake the project.  Please note: this
should be entered in the application process in place of the Research

· Three academic references in support of your application.  The names and
contact details of your referees should be entered in the Referees section
of the application form.  Your referees should be qualified to comment on
your academic ability and should not be from people related to you by blood
or marriage.  You are responsible for contacting your referees and ensuring
that all necessary references are received.  References can be submitted on
headed paper or using the referee's report form. Your referees should
return their references by email to  or in sealed
envelopes to Postgraduate Administrator, School of PRHS, University of
Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT.


Interviews are likely to be held in Oxford on 1 May 2018 for shortlisted


Further Information


Informal enquiries relating to the project can be directed to Dr Jon Topham


Further information about the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of
Science at the University of Leeds is available at


Further information about graduate admissions at Leeds is available at


Further information about Oxford University Museums is available at: .


For any other information please contact Dr Harriet Warburton, Oxford
University Museums Research Facilitator





Please note: the Oxford University Museum of Natural History will be home
to another doctoral project related to natural history museums:


Nature of replication: natural history museums and the circulation of casts
and models

Based at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, in collaboration with Oxford
University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH).


This project will explore and reassess the history, significance and
curatorial future of natural history cast collections. In the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, plaster casts, models and replicas were key
to sharing unique and rare specimens between museums for scientific
scrutiny, museum display and as ‘backups’ to the originals. Starting
with examples from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, which
holds the ‘Oxford dodo’, one of the most replicated museum objects in
the world, this project would look at the cultures of casting and
modelling. It will explore the different techniques used in manufacture,
key individuals who sold them, existing catalogues, invoices and
correspondence in museum archives and the networks of museum curators who
commissioned, swapped and shared this material.


This project will piece together the history of cast production as way of
sharing ideas as well as examining how museums can best record, promote and
display these sometimes second class objects today. It also links to
current research being undertaken by OUMNH explore the use of the next
generation of 3D visualisation and prototyping in museum spaces, together
with the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of user experience.


The studentship will be supervised by jointly supervised by Dr Alice
Stevenson (University College London) and Mark Carnall (Oxford University
Museum of Natural History). This full-time studentship, which is fully
funded for 3 years, with the option of up to 6 months additional funding
for related professional development, will begin on 24 September 2018.


More details are available at