AHRC-funded PhD Studentship: University of Sussex (History of Art) & the National Portrait Gallery

This studentship is one of six awarded to the Thames Consortium, which comprises three London-based institutions: the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), The National Archives, and the National Maritime Museum.

This project aims to investigate the professional practice of Sir George Scharf (1820-1895), the NPG’s first Director, 1857-1895, using the Scharf Archive held at the Gallery in conjunction with an analysis of the collection. The following research questions underline the main issues to be addressed by the project, though the student has the scope to define the topic and approach in conjunction with the supervisors:

  1. To what extent did Scharf engage with prominent Victorian figures? The student will trace the history and context of Scharf’s social and professional networks, investigating key figures and professional circles.
  2. What was the extent and nature of Scharf’s collaboration with specific Trustees? The student will examine key figures who shaped Scharf’s professional decisions in relation to the NPG and the early collecting and curatorial practices of the Gallery.
  3. What role did Scharf play in the development of museum practice and the curatorial profession? The student will investigate Scharf’s methodology of portrait identification, his approaches to display, and the interconnectedness of 19th-century curatorship.

The supervisors of this project are Dr Meaghan Clarke, Senior Lecturer in Art History (University of Sussex) who specialises in visual and material culture in Britain during the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century period, and Dr Peter Funnell, Curator of Nineteenth-Century Portraits and Head of Research Programmes (National Portrait Gallery) who specialises in nineteenth-century portraiture across all media. Additional supervisory experience will be provided by Bryony Millan, Archivist (National Portrait Gallery).

This studentship offers an excellent opportunity to pursue a fully-funded doctoral research project, with unparalleled access to primary source material from a national collection. Catalogued in 2010, the Scharf Archive contains extensive records relating to Scharf’s professional and private life. The student will be offered practical work-based training (such as archival and curatorial), be encouraged to contribute to the NPG’s Staff Research Seminar programme, and the results of the student’s research will be used to develop new web interpretation material for the NPG and to create a small display within the Gallery. Sector-specific training will be provided to develop skills relevant to working in museums and galleries.

The studentship is funded for three years full-time (or five years part-time) and will begin on 1 October 2013.


Applicants should contact Dr Natasha Awais-Dean (nawais-dean@npg.org.uk) for an application form and for any informal enquiries about this project. Please note that references must be submitted at this stage.

The closing date for applications is 5pm Wednesday 8 May 2013. It is anticipated that interviews will take place on 15 May 2013.

Published on: 
22 Apr 2013