The University of Glasgow is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD opportunity: an AHRC/SGSAH Collaborative Doctoral Award between National Museums Scotland and the University of Glasgow on displaying ancient Egypt in Scotland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The project is due to start October 1, 2021, comes with the UKRI standard stipend per annum (£15,609 for 21/22), and is also being made available to international students. Further particulars available

Deadline for applications: Monday, 7 June, 2021 by 5.00pm GMT

Start date for PhD: 1 October 2021

Funding details: Fully funded AHRC project, covering tuition fees and stipend (at UKRI rate)


Dr Michael Given ([email protected])

Dr Rosie Spooner ([email protected])

Dr Margaret Maitland ([email protected])

Dr John Giblin ([email protected])

Project Summary

UK collections of Egyptian and Sudanese material came into being through colonialism during an age of empire. Displays of this material helped create and disseminate a vision of ancient Egypt made in the reflection of the British Empire. Museums continue to be confined by these narratives, and the weight of audiences’ expectations of traditional museum displays. Offered in collaboration with National Museums Scotland, this PhD project will examine the history of displays of ancient Egyptian material in Scottish museums to determine how these were influenced by and served to reinforce imperialist, nationalist, and elitist thought, and challenge the persistence of these narratives in museums today.

This constitutes the first research project to use methodologies from Museum Studies to investigate how existing ideologies in British society and Britain’s involvement in empire shaped displays about Egypt, and the ‘Orient’ more broadly, and the role museums played in educating the public about ancient Egypt as an exemplar of ‘civilisation’. A focus on Scottish museums will offer insights into the impact of imperial ideologies outside of London and the role of Scottish national interests. Furthermore, it will address key gaps regarding how elite narratives were privileged, how displays were intended to educate visitors about taste, social roles, and class structure, and the ways museum displays served to enhance the status of contributing archaeologists and donors. The project will address the following research questions:

-How did displays of ancient Egyptian material reflect and reinforce concepts of identity, race, nationalism, social hierarchy, imperialism, and colonial thought?

-How were narratives, supplementary images, replicas, reproductions, and display furniture/architecture used to conjure an idea of ‘ancient Egypt’ amongst audiences?

-How did the sources of the material (e.g. archaeological expeditions, donors) and the identities of curators (e.g. gender, social background, expertise) influence their arrangements and interpretations?

-How were displays influenced by other international Egyptological displays or by international exhibitions in Glasgow and London, and were the displays similar/different to displays of other colonially acquired material or Scottish material?

-How did museums’ presentation of ideas about Egyptian rule, social structure, art and architecture, empire-building, and trade compare with how Britain and its relationship with the world was presented to educate the public?

This project will take advantage of access to historic museum collections and archives. NMS holds almost 6000 ancient Egyptian and Sudanese objects, as well as extensive archives pertaining to past displays and collecting practices. This provides a rich body of primary sources to study how displays were conceived and developed. The research will also draw on archival material identified as part of NMS’ 2019-2020 review of Egyptian collections held by museums across Scotland. The project will reconstruct a sense of these historic displays and how they were promoted to and received by the public. In the student’s third year, they will complete a six-month placement in the World Cultures Department at NMS, gaining hands-on collections, documentation, and provenance research experience. The student will also work with supervisors to organise a workshop/engagement event interrogating colonial and imperial ideologies in ancient Egyptian and Sudanese museum displays.

Over the course of the PhD, the student will benefit from career development activities at NMS, the University of Glasgow and external bodies such as SGSAH. At the University of Glasgow, the student will be a member of the College of Arts Graduate School and, within that, the School of Humanities. The College of Arts has an international reputation for the quality of its research, and values the contributions that its one thousand research students make to this vibrant research culture. The College offers an extensive Postgraduate Skills Development Programme, which is delivered within the national Researcher Development Framework.

The student will normally undertake two weeks of skills development training per year, and would be very welcome to join College of Arts initiatives such as the Decolonise Glasgow and Collections Arts Labs. The School of Humanities comprises six subject areas, including Information Studies and Archaeology where the student’s two academic supervisors are based; the student will belong to both. Information Studies and Archaeology are relatively small subject areas that pride themselves on their friendly and supportive research communities, with regular research seminars, subject-specific training, support from more senior students, and opportunities for small-group teaching experience


The studentship can be undertaken full-time or part-time. From the academic year 2021/22, the AHRC via SGSAH is offering awards to PhD researchers from the world (UK, the EU and International). All funded PhD students, whether UK or International, will be eligible for a full award covering fees at the University of Glasgow’s UK rate and a stipend to support living costs. If an international student is recruited, the College of Arts will waive the difference between the University of Glasgow’s UK and International fee rate. UKRI published further guidance on the changes to EU and International eligibility in October 2020 as follows:

To be classed as a home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

-Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or

-Have settled status, or

-Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or

-Have indefinite leave to remain or enter If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.

It is SGSAH policy to award a maximum of 30 percent of awards in total each year to international students (including those from EU nations). You will also need to be accepted onto the relevant PhD programme via University of Glasgow Admissions. Doctoral Candidates must meet excellence criteria as below:

-Hold at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline, such as museum/heritage studies, information studies, Egyptology, archaeology, history, history of art/design, anthropology, or a related field.

-Have completed or on course to complete a Masters Degree in a relevant discipline/ and/or demonstrate equivalent, relevant professional experience.

-Applicants without a Masters qualification should include with their application a one-page statement outlining the relevant skills, experience and knowledge they have gained beyond undergraduate degree level, that could be considered equivalent to Masters study.

-Be able to demonstrate preparedness for the proposed, specific collaborative doctoral project.

-They must also have undertaken, with the full supervisory team, an assessment of their existing skills and skills needs.

How to apply

To apply, please submit the following documents directly via email to [email protected]:

-A cover letter (2 pages max) outlining your reasons for your interest in this opportunity, your preparedness for this doctoral project and what you would bring to it, and initial thoughts on how you would approach the research.

-A CV (2 pages max) with information on your academic qualifications and any work or other relevant experience.

-Qualification certificates/transcripts

-The name and contact details of an academic referee.

The deadline for applications is 5.00pm (GMT) on Monday 7 June 2021.

As part of the shortlisting process, you may be asked via email to submit an example of recent academic writing (e.g., MA dissertation chapter or essay, or undergraduate dissertation where the applicant does not have an MA qualification) by 5pm on Monday 14 June 2021. Please also ensure your referee can provide (on request, via email) an academic reference by 5pm on Monday 14 June 2021. Interviews will be held on Friday 18 June 2021 via Microsoft Teams.

Further information

For further information or informal queries, please contact either [email protected] and [email protected].