If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile

Research Statement

I work on colonial and imperial histories and heritage and on their relationships with contemporary social issues. My research themes include the expression and symbolism of social identities on the island of Ireland, the representation of diverse groups, collaborations between communities and cultural institutions in divided societies, and decolonisation projects.

In Queen's, I aim to develop and contribute to new academic and professional networks focused around colonialism, empire and cultural institutions, working in and alongside colleagues in the Centre for Public History, Institute of Irish Studies, Heritage Hub and Digital Humanities Research Group; and with their community and institutional partners.

Previous projects have included the ESRC-funded 'Museums, Empire and Northern Irish Idenity' Fellowship, a Queen's partnership project with National Museums NI, the Irish Museums Association, the Northern Ireland Museums Council and the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at the University of Maynooth. 

Research Focus

I use anthropology and social history to explore the legacies of empire and colonialism on the island of Ireland; and the roles of cultural institutions in these debates. My interdisciplinary approach engages with both academic and institutional research, including collaborating with living communities, and with historical perspectives represented within collections and archives.

I seek out close biographical reading that can be gathered from object documentation, from first-hand and inherited accounts, and from interactions with objects, archives, and landscapes, in order to more fully understand the entangled nature of colonial and imperial networks and experiences, and also to investigate contemporary conceptualisations of these histories. I am particularly interested in personal and collective memories of colonialism and imperialism and in developing methods for investigating and contributing to public discourse on these divisive themes.    

Research Interests

My doctorate, 'Colonial Objects in Northern Ireland', contributed to the conceptualisation of boundaries and categories framing the social history of colonialism and imperialism, and the concepts through which we understand related heritage, by unifying autoethnographic and ethnographic methods and working across both public and private collections. By investigating emotions and memories about collections and the spaces in which they are housed, I showed how, as well as being strongly evocative for the source communities who were their first owners, ‘colonial objects’ might also carry meanings for people on the island of Ireland.


1994: BA(Hons) Anthropology, University of Durham: First.

1994-1999: Curator of Ethnography (Africa, Oceania & Americas), National Museums Scotland. 

1999-2004: Heritage Officer, Belfast City Council.  Assessed grant applications and arranged events to enable community engagement with history and heritage; commissioned tourist leaflets and other popular publications (e.g. Law, G., Historic Pubs of Belfast, Bradbury, J., Celebrated Citizens of Belfast (both 2002 Belfast: Appletree Press). Supported the Royal Irish Academy on the publication of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas for Belfast. Promoted protection of built heritage. Organised an international conference, Look Up Belfast in 2002. Represented the Council in a European network of historic cities, INHERIT.

2001: MLitt, 'A Heritage Strategy for Belfast'. Museum and Gallery Studies, University of St Andrews: Distinction. 

2003-2004: Acting Culture and Arts Manager, Belfast City Council. Managed staff team of 5 and budget of £1.13m; revised arts and heritage grant-making procedures and authored a fully consultative cultural strategy (Belfast City Council Culture and Arts Plan 2003-2006). Served on Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Working Group.

2004-2012: Assistant Director, Northern Ireland Museums Council. Developed corporate plans and strategies; gave evidence to the Inquiry into the Development of a Museums Policy for Northern Ireland; and acted as witness to the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Participated in public sector policy consultations to advocate for museums and authored professional reports and advocacy materials. I led NIMC’s contribution to the UK-wide Big Lottery-funded 75th anniversary commemorations of the Second World War, including initiating a museum grant programme and working in partnership with the Imperial War Museum and Public Record Office of Northern Ireland to commission a major online resource from the Nerve Centre. NIMC policy lead in fulfilling its duties under Section 75 of the 1998 Northern Ireland Act relating to Equality; delivering NIMC’s Cultural Diversity Policy and its exhibition and publication, Our People Our Times (Maureen Mackin, 2005); and as a member of Healing Through Remembering’s Living Memorial Museum Sub-Group which commissioned an audit of artefacts from the Troubles (Kris Brown, 2008).

2016 - ongoing: Member, Programming Committee, FE McWilliam Gallery, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council. 

2016: Consultant, ‘Museum and Heritage Services Scoping Paper’ (unpublished). Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

2016: ongoing: Board member, Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society. 

2018: ongoing: Editor, Museum Ireland, the annual journal of the Irish Museums Association. 

2020: PhD, 'Colonial Objects in Northern Ireland', Ulster University: Passed without corrections. Supervisors: Professor Elizabeth Crooke, Professor of Museum and Heritage Studies; Dr Tom Maguire, Head of School of Arts and Humanities. External Examiner: Professor Christopher Whitehead, Dean of Global - Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of Museology, Newcastle University. Internal Examiner: Dr Philip McDermott, Senior Lecturer, School of Applied Social and Policy Sciences, Ulster University. 




I lecture and tutor in Anthropology, Public History and museums at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen's University Belfast. I have also lectured and convened modules on Museum and Heritage Studies MA programmes.  


Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Research Focus

PhD at Ulster University, 'Colonial Objects in Northern Ireland' (2020, passed without corrections). Colonial Objects in Northern Ireland — Ulster University

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


Dive into the research topics where Briony Widdis is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or