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Name: Peter Lester

PhD: Museum Studies

Thesis Title: The Archival Exhibition: new ways of creating meaning from archives and broadening access to our documentary heritage


Thesis Description: The research explores influences on and approaches to archive exhibitions, examining how archivists can develop innovative displays which fully utilise our understanding of the historical and material significance of archives. The project will develop thinking around the unique interaction with a 'real object' provided within an exhibition, using case studies to explore how archivists create meaning through interpretation and the use of design and space, and by drawing on recent scholarship in museum studies around exhibition and architecture.  Underpinning the research is the aim of providing a full understanding of how archive displays can engage with audiences and widen access to our rich, documentary heritage.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

  • Professor Suzanne MacLeod, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
  • Professor Emerita Elizabeth Edwards, formerly Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University




Conference Papers and Presentations:

  • 'Archive Exhibitions', teaching session for MARM Students, Centre for Archive Studies (LUCAS), University of Liverpool, 10 May 2018
  • 'Exploring Archive Exhibitions', Archives and Society Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 8 May 2018
  • 'Opening the Case: Reframing Visitor Engagement with Archive Exhibition', Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI) conference: Windows, Frames, Landscapes, Toronto, 10 - 14 July 2017
  • 'Logic of the Archive: a CDF initiative' (with Natasha Barrett), M3C Research Festival, Leicester, 25 May 2017
  • 'Alternative Approaches to Archives', Logic of the Archive, M3C day workshop, 27 April 2017
  • 'An Introduction to Archives and Archive Exhibitions', Think Tank (elective workshop) for MA Students, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, 9 November 2016
  • 'The Archival Exhibition: a contextual argument for research', School of Museum Studies Research Week, University of Leicester, 22 June 2016
  • 'Marks on Surfaces: different approaches to documents', five-minute research relay presentation and digital story, M3C Research Festival, Nottingham, 17 May 2016
  • 'Bringing Collections to the Visitor: archives as works of art in the design of new archive repositories', Future of Museum and Gallery Design conference, Hong Kong, 13 - 15 November 2015 
  • 'Research Project and Design', pechakucha presentation, North-West European Educator's Network (NAET) PhD workshop on Research Design, Archivschule Marburg, 3 - 5 August 2015
  • 'Learning to Read: Archives and Palaeography', The Archivist as a Teacher, Archives and Records Association (ARA) Archives for Learning and Education Section annual conference, 2014
  • 'Creating an Online Exhibition: Exploring the Electronic Environment and the Opportunities presented by the Internet', An Introduction to Display, Archives and Records Association (ARA) East Midlands Region training event, 2006


Student Development Fund (SDF) funded activities:

  • Research trip to the National Archives of the Netherlands, the National Library and Amsterdam City Archive, October 2017
    This research trip comprised interviews with the archivists, librarians and designers at the National Archives of the Netherlands, the National Library and Amsterdam City Archives.  These contrasting institutions provide different but innovative approaches to the exhibition and interpretation of archives. 
  • Conference paper presentation and attendance at the Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI), Toronto, and research trip to Ottawa, Toronto and Washington DC, July 2017
    The conference examined current research trends in archives.  I presented an academic paper which discussed one of my research case studies and theorised findings resulting from this.  The research element of the trip enabled visits to and interviews with archivists and designers at Libraries and Archives Canada, the US National Archives, the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library, as well as additional archives and museums.  This trip was part-funded by the RTSG (Research Training and Support Grant) fund.
  • Two research trips to the Royal Library, Copenhagen, April 2017 and September 2017
    These trips provided an opportunity to interview designers and research the design process involved in the installation of exhibitions at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, and to analyse the exhibitions once they had opened in summer 2017.  The Royal Library explores innovative ways of creating a personal encounter between the visitor and the document; these diverse exhibitions encompass performative artistic collaborations as well as discussing issues around difficult histories and subject matters.
  • Research trip to the National Archives of Luxembourg, January 2017
    This research trip comprised interviews with the archivist and exhibition designer at the National Archives of Luxembourg, and exhibition analysis.  The exhibitions utilise innovative forms of user-created content as well as focusing on concepts of identity, and provide unusual methods of engaging interesting discussions around archives.  This trip also enabled a visit to the city archive in Trier, Germany; and to a number of local museums in Luxembourg.
  • Attendance at the Museum Design: International Forum on Designing for Visitor Engagement in Museums, Taipei, October 2016
    This event comprised a day-conference at the National History Museum and a workshop at the National Taipei University of Education, both focusing on the museum visitor experience with a specific emphasis on a design perspective.  The trip also enabled associated activities as part of the Design Forum organised in partnership with UKTI, and visits to a number of museums in Taipei and Tainan.
  • Conference paper presentation and attendance at the Future of Museum and Gallery Design conference, Hong Kong, November 2015
    This conference explored innovative and dynamic forms of design within museums and galleries.  I presented an academic paper on artist-generated design initiatives in archives.  The trip also enabled visits to key archives and museums in Hong Kong.


Cohort Development Fund (CDF) funded activities:


Other activities:

  • Editor-in-Chief, Museological Review, 2016 - 2017
    Museological Review is an online peer-reviewed journal published annually by the community of PhD students at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
  • Judge, Leicestershire and Rutland Heritage Awards 2016
  • Co-curator, Exhibition of Research, Museums in the Global Contemporary conference, 20 - 22 April 2016
    I provided organisational support for the visual submissions element of the School of Museum Studies' 50th anniversary conference, including liaising with contributors and co-curating the exhibition of research


University email address: 

Twitter: @Pablester

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