We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Miss Felicity Amelia McDowall, B.A (Hons), M.Phil

Personal web page

College Mentor of St Mary's College

(email at

Academic Biography

BA (Hons) in Anthropology and Archaeology, Durham University (2015)

M.Phil in Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge (2016)

Research Topic

Stone and Bone: The Presentation of Prehistory in British Museums


Prehistory encompasses the majority of human history yet it is frequently misunderstood by the public and is often viewed as uninteresting and irrelevant. Museums thus play a vital role in communicating the complex narratives of this period to the public in an accessible and engaging manner. However, presenting this period poses many presentational and interpretational issues. My research seeks to address these issues by undertaking a comprehensive review of how museums of different types and sizes present prehistory to identify prevailing display trends and narrative themes. To understand how these trends affect visitor engagements I am also undertaking visitor-based data collection at 6 different types of museum. This data is collected in the form of tracking and questionnaire surveys which reveal visitor perceptions of the period, what they find interesting/ uninteresting about it and how they interact with such displays. 

My research is undertaken in conjunction with the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture (CVAC) and consequently employs a visual culture approach to explore public perceptions of prehistory displays. 

Conference Contributions and Talks

2018: 'Interesting but unfamiliar: visitor perceptions and engagements with British prehistory displays', Society for Museum Archaeologists. 5th-6th November. UCL 


2018: Presented the poster 'The first humans: How the Palaeolithic is presented and percieved in museums in Britain'. British Museum Palaeolithic Mesolithic Conference. 25th-26th October. London

2018: Shortlisted to present the poster "Fusty, dusty and musty": How an integrated approach to visitor evaluation can be utilized to understand visitor engagements with prehistory interpretation. Association of Heritage Interpretation. 3rd-5th October. Chester

2018: 'Cavemen before civilisation: A methodology for understanding visitor perceptions and engagements with British Prehistory displays'. European Association of Archaeologists 24th Annual Meeting, 5th-8th September. Barcelona.

2018: Session organizer and chair for the session 'Exploring the presentation and interpretation of prehistory in museum displays'. European Association of Archaeologists 24th Annual Meeting, 5th-8th September. Barcelona.

2018: 'Breaking the glass display case: (Mis) representations of women in British prehistory displays'. Dig Deeper Public Lectures, 8th August. Palace Green Library, Durham.

2017: Session organiser and chair for the session 'How to see time: a visual culture perspective'. Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference, 18th-20th December. Cardiff University.

2017: 'The past as a foreign land? The 'exoticisation' of British prehistory in British museums'. Visual Intersections II, 10th-12th July. Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, Durham University.

2017: 'Stone and bone: the presentation of British prehistory in British museums'. GM Trevelyan Research Prize, 18th May. Trevelyan College, Durham.

2017: 'Representation of women in prehistoric museum displays'. Women, Power and Visual Culture, 9th March. Barker Research Library, Palace Green.

2017: 'Grave Implications: Does Sima de los Huesos represent one of the earliest cases of hominin mortuary behaviour in the archaeological record?'. Unravelling the Palaeolithic, 11-12th February. University of Liverpool.

2016: 'Where time stands still: changing practices of prehistory display in the United Kingdom'. Theoretical Archaeology Group, 19-21st December. University of Southampton.

2016: 'Brutish savages or compassionate and complex? Dispelling Neanderthal myths'. Torquay Museum Society Lecture Series, 6th December. Torquay Museum.

Is supervised by

Research Groups

Related Links

Selected Grants

  • 2019: Clare Fell Fund Bursary (£150) to attend the Northern Prehistory conference
  • 2018: Rosemary Cramp Fund (£350) for a research project at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Ireland.
  • 2018: Trevelyan Trust Travel Bursary (£100) for a research visit to Ireland.
  • 2017: Trevelyan Trust Travel Bursary (£500) for a research trip to Orkney.
  • 2016: Leverhulme Doctoral Studentship in Visual Culture covering tuition fees and full maintenance for three years and three months.