PhD student awarded inaugural scholarship

Bath Spa PhD candidate awarded inaugural scholarship

Thursday, 10 June, 2021

Thomas Rolfe, a PhD candidate in the School of Humanities and the Business School, has been awarded a prestigious inaugural Civic Scholars Award at the Institute for Community Studies (ICS).

The ICS is part of the Young Foundation, and works through a network of researchers and practitioners to make sure policy-making is shaped and informed by the stories and experiences of local communities.

Thomas will receive a £500 bursary to help with training or development opportunities. He’ll also have the chance to explore how his research can have a stronger community impact through seminars and events, mentoring and best-practice training.

“I’m really excited to have been offered this award. This opportunity will allow me and my current PhD research to connect directly to ICS and the important work that they do with communities throughout the UK,” Thomas said.

He continued: “By taking part in first hand community research experience through the award, I hope to develop more efficient and sustainable methods of policy development for museums and cultural organisations that have the community at the very heart of all decisions made.”

Working closely with museums in Bath and Bristol, including The Roman Baths, M-Shed, and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes,Thomas will identify and evaluate challenges in getting communities engaged and achieving more representation of marginalised groups in order to inform new strategy and policy development within museums. By working directly with community groups through interviews, questionnaires and focus groups, Thomas’ research aims to understand, on a more personal level, the challenges these different communities face on a day to day basis.

Talking about his research in more detail, Thomas said:

“At the very core of this research is understanding what challenges these communities face when trying to engage with art, culture and museums. By working closely with community groups, I'm able to inform museums’ management how they can develop and sustain their relationships with these communities. The goal is to view the museum as more of a tool towards community development, tackling society challenges and creating more socially cohesive societies.”

Alongside his full time PhD studies, Thomas works in the Heritage Services at Bath and North East Somerset Council, as a Group Sales Officer, Visitor Experience Supervisor, and Visitor Experience Host; positions that allow him to work directly within museums.

“I believe that everyone has the right to equal access to art and culture and that museums are responsible for ensuring everyone has this right,” he said.

Thomas is also already a graduate from Bath Spa University with an MA in Arts Management before previously studying for his BA in Illustration at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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