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Durham University

Department of History

Staff Profile

Ms Emily Marsden

First World War photographs in the collections of the National Media Museum, Bradford in the Department of History

Contact Ms Emily Marsden

PhD Research

My thesis takes as its starting point First World War photographs in the collections of the National Media Museum, Bradford. While much discussion of First World War photography highlights its perceived absences and its use as propaganda, I concentrate on the social biographies of particular photographic objects and their position in the construction of a wider visual archive. I trace the emergence of generic similarities (explosions, ruins, technology, portraits) across the archive, examining how images are shared, transferred or modified between different objects and contexts (press photographs, postcards, military documentation, art works, personal snapshots, studio portraits, publicity material), and their interaction with cultural and visual history on a broader scale.


My research is funded by an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award supported by the National Media Museum, Bradford.

Professional Experience

Previously I worked as a curator specialising in contemporary and twentieth century visual art, with a particular interest in photography, with posts at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University, The New Art Gallery Walsall, and Site Gallery in Sheffield.

Recent Papers

Reframing Photography: First World War Photographs in the Collections of the National Media Museum. (Histories of Collections and Institutions CDP Colloquium, National Gallery, London, May 2017.)

'The violent dissolution of form’: Explosion Images and Abstraction in First World War Visual Culture. (Association of Art Historians Annual Conference, Edinburgh College of Art, April 2016.)


A Monument of Ruins: French First World War Ruin Postcards from a British Archive. (Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France/Society for the Study of French History Postgraduate Study Day, Queen Mary, University of London, March 2016.)


First World War Photographs in the Collections of the National Media Museum. (National Media Museum/Science Museum Group Research Seminar, National Media Museum, Bradford, November 2015.)

Research Interests

  • Visual culture
  • History and theory of photography
  • First World War
  • The photographic archive
  • Museum and heritage studies

Is supervised by