Curating the Global City

My PhD thesis is called ‘Curating the Global City’.

You can read it here.

‘Curating the Global City’ was submitted in September 2013. I was examined in December 2013 by Hayden Lorimer and Alastair Owens. I received my PhD in March, 2014. The research was funded under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme. My supervisors were Cathy Ross and David Gilbert.


City museums collect, conserve and exhibit objects relating to urban history. Despite city museums existing for more than a century, relatively few conventions have developed within the genre, and each major project undertaken at city museums assumes a different approach to representing the city. This thesis examines the process of representing the city through museum work.

In May 2010 the Galleries of Modern London opened at the Museum of London, after six years of preparation. The museum work that took place in the production of these galleries provides a case study for this research. A position embedded within the museum provides the perspective for a close study of how city museums build narrative into space. Using participatory methods the work of making city museums affects and influences the outcome is examined.

The thesis begins with an explanation of its methodological approach, then moves on to discuss common dichotomies that city museums have addressed differently over time. The next chapter turns to the main case study, and focuses on the Museum of London’s planning process and early ideas for the Galleries of Modern London. The following chapter shows how the symbolic meanings of individual objects are manipulated during the physical stage of museum work. After this the thesis discusses how the Museum of London engaged with communities and included multiple voices; how specific parts of the Galleries of Modern London were developed and how city museums address technological change.

This thesis advocates an understanding of the city museum as more than textual, encompassing ideas about process and space. Exploring the context of the Galleries of Modern London shows the contingencies of the city museum. Finally, the ways museum work shapes the ways that the city is represented is shown.


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