ESRC CASE combined MA/Doctoral Award at the University of Liverpool: ‘Museums, Big Data and the Violence of Empire’


Applications are invited for a four-year, fully-funded ESRC CASE joint (1+3) MA and Doctoral Award to be held at Lancaster University (for the MA) and the University of Liverpool (for the PhD), in conjunction with National Museums Liverpool, beginning in October 2021.

CASE 1 +3 studentships involve the undertaking of both an MA and a PhD in collaboration with a partner from outside of the Higher Education sector. It thus provides the opportunity to pursue MA and PhD research in both an academic and a professional context, and to produce a PhD thesis that will resonate both inside and outside academia. For this project, the successful applicant will undertake an MA in Digital Humanities at Lancaster University and a PhD in History at the University of Liverpool. During the PhD, the successful applicant will also undertake research and training at World Museum Liverpool and research visits at Liverpool John Moores University.

This project is a collaboration between the University of Liverpool, Lancaster University, Liverpool John Moores University, and National Museums Liverpool (NML). It aims to generate new understandings of the nature and legacies of imperial and colonial violence through a deep interdisciplinary approach that embraces the use of digital humanities technologies in the curation of collections to help understand how imperial and colonial violence has been conceptualised and perpetuated through imperial and colonial collecting, curatorial decision-making, and museum display practices.

It will address the following research questions:

·        What terminology can be used to identify acts or processes relating to imperial and colonial violence in museum databases, and what do these reveal about the ways in which the violence of empire was understood?

·        What can the classification and representation of objects in museums reveal about the nature of imperial and colonial violence and the role of museums in propagating such violence?

·        What light can digital humanities approaches to historical documents and museum information shed onto official narratives of colonial violence?

·        How can museums take an active role in the decolonisation of technology?

·        In what ways can digital platforms be used to create initiatives to generate counter-narratives of museum objects that enable them to be understood in new ways and promote diversity and inclusivity?

This project has significance for developing new insights, research methods, standards, and protocols through which to explore the potential of digital humanities approaches to transform understandings of, and the interrelationships between, empire, violence, and the cultural heritage sector. Building on insights into the imperial and colonial archive, and museums, indigenous digitisation and a wide range of datasets, this project will also explore the potential of digital platforms to create spaces in which marginalised voices, including the origin communities of objects in cultural heritage collections, can challenge the Eurocentric frameworks through which such objects have been collected, curated and displayed, in addition to rethinking digital methodologies in the creation of data sets. It will thus give the successful applicant the ability to pursue a career in both academia (infields including History, Digital Humanities, and Museum Studies) and in diverse areas of the cultural heritage sector.

The project will be supervised by Dr Deana Heath (History, University of Liverpool), Dr Patricia Murrieta-Flores (History, Lancaster University), Dr Emma Martin (National Museums Liverpool) and Dr Javier Pereda-Campillo (Liverpool School of Art and Design, Liverpool John Moores University).

It is not vital that applicants have a knowledge of digital humanities, since the successful applicant will gain the necessary digital skills for the project through undertaking an MA in this field, but applicants should have a solid grounding in the history of colonialism. Applicants must, in addition, have achieved or be on track to achieve a first class or high 2:1 undergraduate degree to apply. Applicants who already have an MA are also welcome to apply, although you will still need to undertake an MA in Digital Humanities since that is vital for the success of this project. Applicants should also check the ESRC guidance on eligibility for Studentship Awards, which can be found on the ESRC website.

The deadline for applications is 5.00 pm on Monday 19 February 2021. Please send the following to Chris Pearce, Postgraduate Administrator, School of Histories Languages and Cultures, University of Liverpool, 11 Abercromby Square, Liverpool L69 7WZ, or :

·        a CV (including educational qualifications and contact information for two referees, one of whom should be a recent academic tutor/supervisor);

·        your undergraduate and, if relevant, MA transcripts (for applicants who have yet to complete their undergraduate degree an informal transcript showing marks received to date is fine);

·        and a statement outlining your suitability for this research project (maximum 500 words) .

For any specific enquiries about this project, contact Dr. Deana Heath at