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Fiona Candlin

  • Overview



    Fiona Candlin is a museologist who has written extensively on small, independent museums; the twentieth-century museums boom; data collection in the museum sector; and sensory history. She is director of the Mapping Museums Lab, in which capacity she collaborates with a team of computer and data scientists, geographers, and historians.

    Fiona worked for Tate Liverpool, and the School of Architecture and Art History at Liverpool University, before being appointed to a lectureship jointly held by The British Museum and Birkbeck. In this role she established the World Arts and Artefacts Certificate programme, which offered specialist collections-based teaching at numerous London museums. She subsequently developed and was programme director for the MA Museum Cultures.


    • In 2023 Candlin secured a second £1million AHRC grant for a project entitled 'Museum Closure in the UK 2000-2025'. The Mapping Museums Lab will investigate the afterlife of collections, find out if museum exhibits are scrapped, sold, stored, or re-used, and examine ‘outreach’ and temporary museums, thereby bringing concepts of permanence and loss into question.

    • The Mapping Museums Lab were awarded £190,000 COVID rapid response funding for 'UK Museums during the Pandemic'. Beginning in January 2021, the project used a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to assess museum closure, risk and resilience during and after the pandemic. Candlin was Principal Investigator. 

    • In 2016 Fiona Candlin and Alex Poulovassilis Professor of Computer Science at Birkbeck were awarded £1,000,000 for the Mapping Museums research project. The team collected information on over 4,000 museums, and built a database that allows that information to be browsed, searched, and visualised. The database is publicly accessible and free to use.

    • You can listen to Fiona talking about her interview-based work with people who set up their own museums on the Radio 3 broadcast New Thinking About Museums. 

    • In 2018 the Bakelite Museum in Somerset closed its doors to the public. Fiona was invited to film its final days and she worked with the Derek Jarman lab to make The Plastic Phoenix, which can be viewed online.  


    • BA (Hons) Fine Art, Leeds University, 1991
    • MA Critical Theory, University of Sussex, 1993
    • PhD , Keele University, 1998

    Visiting posts

    • Visiting Professor, KonstLab, Gothenburg University, 10-2005 to 09-2007

    Professional memberships

    • Board Member of the Birkbeck Centre for Museum Cultures

    • Board Member of Raphael Samuel History Centre


  • Research


    Research overview


    Candlin leads the Mapping Museums Lab, an inter-disciplinary team whose work combines quantitative and qualitative research. The large scale project, Mapping Museums: the history and geography of the UK sector 1960-2000 generated a searchable database containing information on over 4,000 museums. This resource then formed the bedrock for the group's subsequent projects: 'Museums in the Pandemic: Risk, resilience and closure', and 'Museum Closure in the UK 2000-2025'. She has been awarded significant funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; and the Leverhulme Trust amongst others.

    Candlin's most recent book is Stories From Small Museums (2022), an oral history of the late twentieth century UK museums boom. Her previous work includes Micromuseology: An analysis of small independent museums and Art, Museums, and Touch, both funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and The Object Reader, with Raiford Guins. She is currently working on a new book provisionally titled 'Zombie Museums and Dead Zebras: the aftermath of closure'.

    Research projects

    Museum closure in the UK 2000-2025.

    Mapping Museums: The history and geography of the UK independent sector 1960-2020.

    UK Museums during the COVID-19 crisis: Assessing risk, closure, and resilience.


    Art, Museums, and Touch

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I am happy to consider enquiries from potential doctoral students on topics relating to

    • micromuseums
    • independent museums 
    • local authority museums
    • museum environments
    • museum closure
    • theories of objects
  • Publications




    Book Section

    Conference Item


  • Business and community

    Business and community


    Mildmay Stories

    Candlin is a member of the Mildmay Social Club and Institute in Newington Green. In 2022 she successfully secured £10,000 funding from Historic England's 'Everyday Histories' scheme for an oral history project. Between 2022-3 she organised oral history training for a team of volunteers who then conducted interviews with four generations of club members. She edited the transcripts and worked with a sound designer to produce an hour long audio history of the club. The launch of the oral history was accompanied by a series of photographs of the interview respondents.  

    The oral history, two 'bonus tracks' and photographs of the interview respondents are available on the club website. 

    Mildmay Club Archive (ongoing)

    In Spring 2022, builders at the Mildmay Social Club and Institute in Newington Green a large pile of documents tucked under the eaves in the roof. Closer investigation showed that the paper related to the nineteenth and early twentieth century history of the club and needed to be preserved. Candlin has led a group of volunteers in cleaning and cataloguing the documents which are now stored in a dedicated archive at the club.

    Bishopsgate Institute, London (ongoing)

    Candlin has worked with the Bishopsgate Institute Archive to develop three collections:

    The Mildmay Club Oral History (forthcoming) contains the audio recordings and transcripts of interviews conducted at a North London workingman’s club, and photographs of the interviewees.

    The Mapping Museums Oral Histories (2021) contains the audio recordings and transcripts of interviews that the Mapping Museums team conducted with founders of small museums.

    The Micromuseums Archive (2015) houses the ephemeral material on small independent museums that was collected by Candlin during her Micromuseology research.

    Working with organisations with responsibility for museums in the UK (ongoing)

    Multiple presentations on the methods and findings of the Mapping Museums project to Arts Council England (ACE), the Museum Development Network (MDN), the Department of Digital Media and Culture (DCMS), and the Museums organisations group (which includes senior representatives from ACE, MDN, DCMS, the Museums Association, the Association of Independent Museums, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Museum Directors Board and others).


    BBC World Service: The most remote museum on earth? Pick of the World. March 2023

    BBC Radio 3: New Thinking on Museums  October 2020

    The Plastic Phoenix, a film about the closure of the Bakelite Museum made with the Derek Jarman Institute

    Public presentations and lectures

    'Big Stories from Small Museums', University of the Third Age, Crouch Hill London 2023

    'Mapping Museums and more', presentation to Arts Council England staff, 2023

    'The UK independent museums boom'. Invited lecture at the Association of Independent Museums annual conference June 2019.

    'Mapping Museums'. Invited lecture at the Association of Independent Museums annual conference June 2017.

    'Mapping Museums'. Museums Showoff, London January 2017

    'Micromuseums as Radical Heritage'. Radical Heritage Symposia, Raphael Samuel History Centre, Wellcome Institute, 2015.


    • Consultancies and expert advice

      Arts Council England: Invited member of Steering Committee on Data Collection