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

Personal profile

Research Statement

In collaboration with my academic mentors, Professor Dominic Bryan and Dr Emma Reisz, my current ESRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellowship, Museums, Empire and Northern Irish Identity, aims to improve understanding of how colonial collections relate to contemporary social issues impacted by the museum sector. These include community identities, the representation of diverse groups, the role of museums in divided societies, museum decolonisation and collaboration surrounding these collections. 

The Fellowship aims to develop and contribute to new academic and professional networks focused around colonialism, empire and museums, drawing on the unique interdisciplinary environment at Queen’s, including the Centre for Public History, Institute of Irish Studies, Heritage Hub, and Queen’s Strategic Partnership Agreement with National Museums NI.

The project is being delivered in partnership 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

My research is on the legacies of empire and colonialism in Northern Ireland, and the role of museums in these debates. I seek to use public anthropology and social history to explore how contemporary identities connect with colonial collections. My interdisciplinary approach engages with both academic and museum 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 direct experiences of objects and from personal memories, in order to more fully understand the impacts of colonisers on Indigenous communities, and also to investigate conceptions about the colonial past. In my current research project, Museums, Empire and Northern Irish Identity, I try to locate knowledge about the colonial objects in Northern Ireland’s museums, to support community engagement with them, and to build collaborative partnerships leading to their fuller research.

Research Interests

My doctorate, 'Colonial Objects in Northern Ireland', contributed to the conceptualisation of boundaries and categories framing the social history of imperialism, and the concepts through which we understand objects linked to empire, by unifying autoethnographic and ethnographic methods and working across both public and private collections. It considered how, although England’s first colonial subjects, the Irish have also actively engaged in promoting imperial interests elsewhere. 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 in Ireland.

Achievements

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. 

 

 

Teaching

I am a Teaching Assistant in Anthropology and History in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen's University Belfast.

2020-2021 tutoring includes on ANT1003 'World on the Move' and ANT1006 'Understanding Northern Ireland'. 

I have also taught on Museum and Heritage Studies MA programmes at Ulster University and in 2006 developed and delivered an MA teaching module, 'Heritage Planning'. 

Achievements

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Fingerprint

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.
  • 6 Similar Profiles

Network

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