Welshness in the museum: Representing the past in Wales’ National Museums, c.1900-1975

Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at The Open University (OU) in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museums Wales (AC-NMW). This fully-funded studentship is available from October 2022 on a full or part-time basis. Further details about the value of an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP award are available on our Studentships page.

Closing date: midday (UK time) 11 January 2022

Project overview

Photograph of the exterior of the National Museums Wales in Cardiff

National Museums Wales, Cardiff

© National Museums Wales

Proposals should consider the ways in which the Welsh past has been represented in Wales’s national museums, and what that reveals about Welsh identity in the period under review. They can focus on any time within the first three quarters of the twentieth century, and should centre on the foundation and/or early history of one or more of the seven museums that now form part of AC-NMW. These are the National Museum Cardiff, St Fagans National Museum of History, the National Waterfront Museum, Big Pit National Coal Museum, the National Slate Museum, the National Wool Museum, and the National Roman Legion Museum.

Possible research themes might include one or more of the following:

  • How ‘grand narratives’ of Welsh history were constructed and disseminated, and the forms of identity that were promoted and marginalised
  • The interplay between Welsh, British and/or local identities, and/or the tensions between industrial history and the romantic notion of Wales as a rural nation.
  • The extent to which questions of class informed the stories that Welsh museums told about the past, and how these issues interacted with dominant narratives of (stateless) nationhood.
  • The ways in which museum exhibiting practises were informed by ‘colonial’ assumptions about ethnicity and historical progress.

The successful applicant would be expected to make use of AC-NMW’s archival holdings. Much of this material has yet to be catalogued and made available to scholars, and consequently remains relatively untouched by researchers. In addition to providing access to this material, AC-NMW will give the successful candidate:

  • the chance to help catalogue the collection(s) they are working with
  • the opportunity to design and deliver public engagement initiatives relating to their research.

A full programme of training and mentoring in archiving and public engagement will be provided to support this work. In this way, the applicant will be equipped with additional skills and experience from the heritage sector that will considerably enhance his or her employability prospects upon graduation. Please note, however, that these activities are optional and do not constitute a formal requirement for completion of the PhD.


The successful applicant would be co-supervised by two academics from the Open University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and one co-supervisor at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museums Wales. In addition to the development opportunities provided by AC-NMW, the applicant will benefit from the extensive programme of research training events provided by the OU and by the Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership.

The lead supervisor for the project will be Dr Richard Marsden, Senior Lecturer in History and Director of Teaching for the School of Arts and Humanities at the OU. Richard’s research expertise is on representations of the past in Wales and Scotland from the eighteenth century to the present day. The supervisor from AC-NMW will be Kristine Chapman, Principal Librarian. Kristine’s expertise is in the early history of Wales’ national museums and the various archives and collections that can shed light upon that subject. Depending on the topic chosen by the applicant, the second OU supervisor may be drawn from another relevant discipline to fully support an interdisciplinary project.

How to apply

While the successful candidate will complete a PhD in History, her/his academic background could come from any related discipline, including but not limited to heritage studies, classical studies, art history and sociology. We invite applications from candidates from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Applicants will normally hold a Master's Degree in History or a related discipline as outlined above, and/or a first class degree with a substantial original-source dissertation. However, applicants without those qualifications can be considered provided they can demonstrate the capacity to pursue research and write at a high level in a historical field. The ability to read Welsh is not required, but may be an advantage depending on the topic of the proposed research.

Please visit the OU pages on ‘How to apply for a PhD in History’ for guidance on what your proposal should consist of, how to put one together and how to submit it. The Faculty’s FAQs page may also be useful. Potential applicants are also encouraged to contact Richard Marsden (richard.marsden@open.ac.uk) with questions and for any guidance before submitting their application. 

You should apply to the PhD in History by midday (UK time) 11 January 2022, indicate your interest in being considered for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP studentship and submit a completed copy of the OOC DTP Application Form at the same time. Further details on how to apply for OOC DTP studentship funding is available on our How to Apply page.