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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Felicity Amelia McDowall, B.A (Hons), M.Phil (Cantab), PhD (Dunelm)

Personal web page

Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Geography
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 41801
College Mentor of St Mary's College

(email at felicity.a.mcdowall@durham.ac.uk)

Academic Biography

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

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

PhD in Archaeology, Durham University (2021) 

Research Overview

Felicity's interests lie within the intersecting fields of archaeology, visual culture, heritage, museum studies and cultural geography. She is currently working as a PDRA to support several cultural heritage research projects focused on utilising participatory methodologies to map the local cultural heritage of remote mountain communities in Central Asia that are facing social change, risk and loss in the wake of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and climate change.

Her museum and public engagement focused PhD 'A visual and visitor-based evalaution of the presentation of prehistory in museums across England' was funded by an interdisciplinary Leverhulme studentship in Visual Culture. Her thesis combined a visual analysis quantitatively comparing 13 variables of display across of 173 displays from Alnwick to Penzance with a visitor-based evaluation of 718 visitors across 6 museums, to reveal public preconceptions of prehistory, representational trends governing prehistory displays and how visitors perceive and engage with these displays. This comprehensive evaluation revealed how a diversity of visitors engage and connect with their deep past, particularly when most of this temporally expansive yet distant heritage is intangible and difficult to communicate. 

Felicity has experience working in different museum contexts conducting research for exhibitions, utilising qualitative research methods to evaluate public engagements and catologuing and identifying a variety of geographically and temporally varied archaeological and ethnographic material.

Prior to undertaking her archaeology PhD Felicity completed an M.Phil in Archaeological Research at Cambridge University and a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology at Durham University focused on the development of prosocial behaviour in the Palaeolithic. 

Conference Contributions and Talks

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

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sIIZOfYtyQ

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.

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

Research Interests

  • Visual and Material Culture Research Group

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.