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AHRC CDP grant: Collecting the boundaries of art in the Science Museum Group

Birkbeck and the Science Museum Group (SMG) are offering a fully-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership grant from October 2020 to undertake full-time or part-time PhD research on the history of art in science museums and its disciplinary impacts.


The studentship is funded through the AHRC's Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme

This project proposes a new perspective on the role of arts within a science institution. It will investigate a two-sided question: how have museums like the Science Museum Group thought about and conceptualised art? And how have the histories of such institutions, and their collections, shaped how the discipline of art history has conceived of visual cultures of science?

Advice for applicants

Project details

  • Project title: 'Collecting the boundaries of art in the Science Museum Group'
  • The project is intentionally interdisciplinary, bringing museum studies and histories of collecting to bear on the boundary between history of science and history of art. Focused on archival research, particularly museum files, the work offers a timely and significant contribution to work at SMG to develop a vision for art across the group. It provides the opportunity for a student to work in a curatorial capacity across the SMG museums, contributing to collections history and policy development, as well as to future acquisitions and commissioning.
  • The student will be expected to spend time at both Birkbeck and the SMG museums, while being based at the Science Museum, as well as become part of the wider cohort of CDP-funded students across the UK. They also have the potential (funding depending) to spend time working with the Curator of the Art Collection at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC, to do a comparative study of a comparable collection.
  • View the full project description


Value and length of funding

  • Value
    • The award pays tuition fees up to the value of the full-time home/EU UKRI rate for PhD degrees. Research Councils UK Indicative Fee Level for 2020/21 is £4,407. 
    • The doctoral stipend for 2020/21 is £15,885 plus London weighting of £2,000/year.
    • This studentship also offers generous research expenses (including support for travel between Birkbeck and SMG sites across the UK), specialist training and access to shared working space at both institutions. 
    • Funding is subject to standard AHRC eligibility, rules, and guidance for the research students whom they fund and support.
  • Funding length
    • This studentship is funded for three years and nine months (45 months) full time or part-time equivalent.
    • The studentship has the possibility of being extended for an additional three months to provide professional development opportunities, or up to three months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities.
    • The award holder will be appropriately embedded for a period on this basis within SMG.


  • Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree in history or other relevant discipline and those with interests in art history, history of science and technology, history of collecting, history of museums and archives, visual culture, and anthropology will be especially welcome.
  • Applicants will also need to satisfy AHRC eligibility requirements including master's-level research training or equivalent. We particularly welcome candidates with prior experience in working with museum, art and/or archival collections, though others are encouraged to apply.
  • Applicants must meet the current UK/EU residency requirements of AHRC, which normally require that they have been ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior the award. EU residents may be eligible for fees-only awards.

How to apply

  • Programme application
    • All applications are made via the Birkbeck application portal, to the MPhil/PhD History of Art programme.
    • The application will prompt you to confirm details of any scholarships or grants (for your proposed study at Birkbeck). Please ensure you respond with: 'AHRC SMG CDP BBK/SM'. If this section is not clearly marked, your application may not be picked up for assessment.
  • Supporting documents
    • A single research proposal document, including your CV, a covering letter including a statement of your qualifications for, and reasons for interest in, the project, and a research proposal of 1500 words. The proposal should identify how your current academic interests relate to the doctoral project, explaining your reasons for wishing to undertake this research. The research proposal should also indicate critical contexts for the project. It can also outline how you might wish to refine the project so as to meet specific research aims of your own.
    • Please note the online programme application advises that School of Arts proposals may be up to 2000 words. For the ‘Collecting the Boundaries of Art’ project, 1500 words is expected.
    • Transcripts of relevant studies and, where appropriate, a letter from your course coordinator predicting the expected degree result (for those who still have to complete their current master's-level programme).
    • A sample of writing such as a chapter of your MA or equivalent. This could be your BA dissertation or additional recent academic or museum blog posts etc. 
  • References
    • Referees will be automatically prompted to upload their references when you submit your application.
    • We strongly encourage you to contact referees to ensure they are prepared to upload their reference by the referee deadline (see below).

Closing date for applications

  • Closing date for applications: 11.59pm, Monday 29 June 2020.
  • Deadline by which all references must be submitted: 11.59pm, Monday 6 July 2020. 
  • Interview date: TBC
  • Only complete applications received, with both references, can be considered.
  • The successful applicant will be eligible to take part in CDP Cohort Development events.

Further information