Information, Interaction and Interpretation in Museums and Galleries


Supervisor: Prof. Christian Heath

Non-accademic partner: The Royal Academy of Arts

We seek applications for a studentship to undertake a Ph.D at the King’s Business School, King’s College London, in close collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The project will examine how visitors use information provided by museums and galleries, for example through labels, gallery cards and electronic devices, in exploring, discussing and interpreting works of art. It will focus on the interaction of visitors and the ways in which resources provided by museums and galleries inform how people engage works of art and participate within exhibitions. Analysis will draw on Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis and the burgeoning corpus of research concerned with embodied or ‘multimodal’ interaction. Data for the project will consist of audio-visual recordings of ‘naturally occurring’ conduct and interaction within museums and galleries augmented by field studies, interviews of visitors, curators and designers, and textual analysis. The project will also involve undertaking a series of small-scale, ‘experiments’ in actual exhibitions in which we make systematic changes to the information provided to visitors. The project will contribute to contemporary developments in studies of social interaction and in particular our understanding of how the sense and significance of art arises in and through talk, embodied conduct and the use of material and digital resources. It will also contribute to practice, – how the particular resources provided by museums and galleries bear upon the ways in which people engage art and participate in exhibitions. The successful applicant will be supervised by Professor Christian Heath, Dr Dirk vom Lehn (King’s College London) and Dr Maurice Davies (Head of Collections) Royal Academy, London.

Applicants should have a background in the social sciences, knowledge of qualitative methods and be familiar with Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. Experience of undertaking qualitative research, for example as part of a dissertation or thesis, would be a distinct advantage. The applicant will be expected to have an interest in art and museums and galleries. Depending on the qualifications of the successful applicant, the studentship may fund a one year M.Sc, followed by a three year studentship to undertake the Ph.D., or a three year studentship to undertake the Ph.D. To find out more about of the studentship and the proposed project please contact either Professor Christian Heath ( or Dr Dirk vom Lehn ( The final deadline for applications is 22nd of February 2019 but we would very much welcome applications before that date.