My interdisciplinary research interests focus on history and anthropology, with an emphasis on cultural heritage. They draw on aspects of values, identity, visual and material culture, museums and communities, authenticity, public history, Neo-Victorian studies and postcolonialism.
There are two main strands to my research. The first examined perceptions of values and identity in the postcolonial context and investigated the changing relationship between museums and communities. The research (funded by the AHRC – Arts and Humanities Research Council), undertaken in Aotearoa New Zealand, identified specific strategies for increasing intercultural awareness and respect for differing perspectives. This research formed the basis for my book Education, Values and Ethics in International Heritage: Learning to Respect (Routledge [Ashgate] 2014), the context of which has been expanded to include North America, Scandinavia and the UK. The book explores whether it is possible to learn respect for differing cultural perspectives through the undertaking of educational programmes, identifies various approaches that could complement the development of students and professionals in the cultural heritage and preservation sectors, and offers a means of actively engaging with cultural and professional values through a Taxonomy for Respecting Heritage and Values.
The second strand centres on the knowledge exchange relationship between museums and communities. It investigates how Steampunks construct their identities, produce their visual and material culture and recreate and reimagine history, and examines the potential impact on museum collections and exhibitions. In investigating the interaction between the official authorised history of museums and the unofficial history of subcultural communities, this research seeks to understand design, redesign and production, identity and the encounters and power relations between institutions and communities.