Thomas Rolfe – Bath Spa University

Personal statement

I am currently carrying out a PhD in Museum and Heritage management, where I am specifically investigating how museums act as representatives for local community groups and how they can ultimately be used as tools for social cohesion.

The primary focus of this research will be investigating community representation within a museum context and understanding how current practices of museums and their programmes are focused on reaching new audiences, the sustainability of audiences, and representation of communities. The main priority of this project is to then gain the perspective of the community and on how they understand their relationship with the museum, learning if they feel represented, and crucially identifying what these communities would like to see more of within ‘their’ museums.

This project will involve research being carried out within the following three museums, The Roman Baths (Bath), M-Shed (Bristol), LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes (Los Angeles), and it will be through working with these museum that I will be able to investigate different management methods and challenges facing these museums, whilst identifying how they engage with their local communities. Thus, through direct research with the communities involved with these museums, I will be able to evaluate the museum’s current management strategies, with the intentions of developing new strategic management processes with the purpose of establishing new and more effective ways in which museums can work with it's communities.

By doing this I will then be able to investigate into how the community voice can be used in a more strategic and representative way within museum and heritage management. This, for the purpose of developing new strategic ways for museums to approach community engagement, representation, and how they can be used as tools towards creating more socially cohesive societies.

Academic qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy - PhD, Museum and Heritage Management (2019-2022)
  • MA Arts Management (1st Class) - Bath Spa University (2018-2019)
  • BA (hons) Illustration (1st Class) - Cardiff Metropolitan University (2013-2016).

Thesis title

Community representation, social cohesion, and museums: audience engagement in Bath, Bristol, and L.A.

Research supervisors

Dr Alison Hems, Dr Kristin Deorn.

Research interests

  • Strategic Museum and Heritage Management
  • Social Cohesion
  • Community Representation
  • Cultural Policy
  • New Museology
  • Sociology.

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