Past Events

Research Careers in the Cultural Sector Series: Working for an Independent Research Organisation

DRN Events – Dr Alice Marples, Dr Elaine Tierney, Dr Kaja Marczewska

  • 6 March 2023
  • 5:30 – 7:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre and Online

This is an event for DRN members only. You can find out more about the network here.

The Research Careers in the Cultural Sector series will consist of two events exploring career possibilities after the completion of a PhD. Studying for a PhD develops a wide range of skills – analytic, written and interpersonal – which can be applied in a range of fields beyond academic lecturing. These events will bring together researchers to explore various different career paths where these skills have been crucial to roles in the cultural sector.

This roundtable will reveal an alternative research career path to academia. Dr Kaja Marczewska (The National Archives), Dr Alice Marples (British Library) and Dr Elaine Tierney (V&A), who are all employed by high-profile independent research organisations (IROs)*, will come together to discuss exciting opportunities for a non-traditional research career outside of university institutions. They will draw from their own experience to explain how the skills they developed whilst completing their PhDs were helpful in developing their careers, and will share advice on how to pursue exciting research outside of the “traditional” academic route.

Speaker presentations will be followed by a Q&A.

*IROs are a network of museums, galleries, libraries and other UK heritage organisations recognised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as having research of a large enough “critical mass” to be considered for AHRC funding in the same way as a university. To be eligible as an IRO, organisations must possess the in-house capacity to carry out investigations that substantially extend and enhance the national research base, and be able to demonstrate an independent capability to undertake and lead research programmes.

Listing image: Youth Reading; single-page drawing on a detached album folio, Isfahan School (Persia), XVII century, acc. no. 1974,0617,0.3.100, The British Museum.

About the speakers

  • Dr Alice Marples is an historian of early modern science, collecting and collections. She received her PhD from King's College London in 2016 and has held postdoctoral positions at the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford. Throughout her academic research career she has specialised in collaborating with institutions in the galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) sector. She joined The British Library as Research and Postgraduate Development Manager in January 2022.

  • Dr Elaine Tierney (she/her) is Senior Tutor in History of Design and Material Culture at the V&A Research Institute (VARI), where she also leads on the V&A’s partnership with Imperial College London. Across her career, Elaine has worked in universities, museums and increasingly in the “spaces” between the two. Edited highlights include a time as lecturer in early modern history at the University of Manchester; contributor to the exhibition and catalogue, Baroque: Style in the Age of Magnificence 1620–1800; and researcher for Handmade in Britain, a television series co-produced by the V&A and BBC4. Since 2013, she has been one half of Time is Away, a cross-disciplinary collaboration across research, radio and site-specific sound artworks. As an historian of design and material culture, Elaine is interested in less permanent and monumental parts of the built environment, from sheds and railings to bonfires and scaffolding, and what they tell us about the social, political and material dimensions of urban life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Her published work uses changing attitudes to materials, processes of production and material “states” to interrogate who and what gets to stay put in cities (and who gets to decide this) – questions that are no less important in the twenty-first century. Elaine’s interdisciplinary research is always informed by her broader professional profile. Working on creative and public-facing projects shapes Elaine’s approach to research and higher education curricula development: from the questions she asks, to her expertise in early modern urban and material cultures, to the range of outputs she expects from her work.

  • Kaja Marczewska is a cultural historian and the Head of Collections Research at The National Archives. She completed her PhD at Durham in 2015 and held academic posts at the Universities of Westminster and Coventry before moving to the cultural sector, first at the V&A and subsequently at the National Archives (TNA). Her research focuses on institutions and infrastructures of knowledge production, with particular focus on activist and grassroots communities and media. She is the author of This Is Not a Copy (Bloomsbury, 2018), Cultures of Small Press Distribution (forthcoming, CUP), co-editor of The Contemporary Small Press (Palgrave, 2020), and a member of the editorial collective, Information as Material (iam).