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.

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Staff and Governance

To contact the IMEMS administrative office please use the following details:

For the Administrator (maternity cover)


T: 0191 334 6574

For the Administrative Assistant


T: 0191 334 42974

Core Staff

The day-to-day running of IMEMS is the responsibility of the Core Executive Committee, comprising the Director and Associate Directors and the Administrator. 

Dr Mary Brooks

(email at


Trained as a conservator, Mary worked as a conservator and curator in the USA, Europe and England before becoming Head of Studies and Research at the Textile Conservation Centre. She was Reader and Programme Leader for their MA Museum & Galleries at the University of Southampton. In 2009-2010, Mary was Director of Studies (Acting) for the MA Cultural Heritage Management, Department of Archaeology, University of York.

Her research focuses on how society engages with 'material things' and how these are, or have been, collected, interpreted and represented in museums. She is also interested in exploring how conservation approaches operate as means for engaging with object-based research and the wider interpretation and presentation of cultural heritage.She is particularly interested in how textiles have ‘disappeared’ from collective memory as well as the physical problems these materials present in terms of degradation and preservation, especially in relation to seventeenth-century embroideries and regenerated protein fibres. 

She was guest curator for 'The Eye of the Needle'exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in summer 2014, showcasing Elizabeth and Michael Feller's collection of 17th century embroideries, never before displayed in public. The exhibition explored the role these embroideries played in 17th century women's lives as well examining the 'material culture' which they created. It was accompanied by lectures,workshops and a study day on 25 September 2014; see With wonderful generosity, the Fellers have now given all their embroideries from the exhibition to the Ashmolean Museum. The exhibition The Needles Excellency at the Ashmolean Museum (April-June 2017) showcases contemporary embroideries inspired by these embroideries. Mary presented an invited paper 'Curiosities from Female Hands' at the Symposium on 27 May 2017 which accomanied this exhibition.

Mary has undertaken curatorial and conservation consultancies for a number of museums and collections. She was Monument Fellow at York Castle Museum in 2011-2012, working on a knowledge transfer project with colleagues and helping to raise awareness of the textile collection. She lectures regularly to universities and professional organisations in this country and abroad. She is a member of the Editorial Board of Textile History having previously been a joint Editor,

Mary is Director of the MA International Cultural Heritage Management; see

Mary teaches elements of preventive conservation and an introduction to textiles on the MA Conservation of Archeological & Museum Objects.

She also convenes the Museum Communication module on the MA Museum & Artefact Studies which results in public engagment through collections. The 2016-17 museum communication projects are focusing on time and decay in the museum. The exhibition DECAY! opens at Palace Green Library Durham on 16 June. The learning pack for teachers to use to introduce school students to the subject of time will be launched at the same time.

Recent conference papers:


Brooks, Mary M. and Marsland, Claire. 'Raiment of the Bride of Christ'. The Design, Creation and Reception of Architect-designed Ecclesiastical Vestments in 19th and 20th Century England. Catholicism, Literature and the Arts:1850 to the Present. Durham University, Centre for Catholic Studies, Centre for Visual Arts & Culture and Ushaw College, 5-7 July 2017.

Brooks, Mary M. and Eastop, D. D. Conservation and the Narrative
Power of Exhibited Garments. The Narrative Power of Clothes. ICOM Costume Committee Meeting, London College of Fashion, 26–29 June 2017

Brooks, Mary M. and Eastop, D. D. Refashioning and Redress: the conservation and re/presentation of dress in museums and beyondCentre for Fashion Curation, London College of Fashion, 8 March 2017.


Caple, Chris and Brooks, Mary. Object Lessons. Inaugural Learning & Teaching Conference, Durham University, 13 September 2016.

Brooks, Mary. Potential and Perception: Exploring The Life of Moses Tapestries of Durham Castle Creating Connections: National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement & Arts Council (North East). Museum University Partnerships Initiative (MUPI), University College, Durham University, 31 March 2016.

Brooks, Mary. Decay and Meaning-making. Accessing the Past: The Evidence of Artefacts. Artefact Research Group, Department of Archaeology & Institute of Advanced Study. Palace Green Library, Durham University, 31 March 2016.


Brooks, Mary and Eastop, Dinah. Worn Dress: Display as Meaning-making. ICOM Costume Committee Meeting, Toronto, September 2015 

Current research projects:

Material Culture under Penalty: Revealing Hidden Catholic Liturgical Vestments and Practices, c.1530-1829  British Academy funded project with Claire Marsland (Ushaw College)

Material Culture under Penalty analyses a hidden aspect of early modern Catholic material culture to develop new knowledge and practice. It focuses on the penal period (c.1530-1829) when conformity to the Church of England was legally enforced and the practice of Catholicism illegal. In consequence, recusant Catholics developed distinctive liturgical vestments for their clandestine religious practice. This material culture is under-studied and often unidentified, surviving in churches and houses as well as museums. This material is not readily recognised for its unique qualities or and made readily understandable to the public as part of a personal, regional, national and transnational cultural/social history of the practice of concealed faith. The project will use co-production of knowledge and meaning-making to locate and examine these pieces and explore and communicate the inter-relationship between material culture, memory and faith and the sustaining, forgetting or reviving of suppressed religious practice.

Mary gave a brief presentation on this research project at the British Academy Roadshow at Durham University in May 2017.

The first workshop of the project took place at Ushaw College on 23 May 2017.

Investigating the Morton ‘Cope’ Society of Antiquaries (London) funded project 

Led by Dr Pam Graves, Durham University.

The Morton ‘cope’ is a rare survival of a medieval vestment associated with a known individual, Cardinal John Morton, who was both Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor (c.1420-1500). It is now held by the Auckland Castle Trust, Bishop Auckland County Durham; see The 'cope' is thought to have been made sometime after 1461. Previously a lavish vestment, it has the unusual motif of a Lily Crucifix together with motifs of a barrel and eagle - a rebus which is a visual pun on Morton’s name. It is now in the form of a panelled flat textile which may have been used as an altar frontal or dorsal. The IHS Christogram embroidered on the other face, a later addition, raises the question of whether, in this form, the reworked ‘cope’ might have formed part of an altar dressing used by Roman Catholics during the penal period (1538-1829) or alternatively during the nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholic revival. This project aims to ‘unpick’ the complex biography of the ‘cope’ with the goals of contributing to understanding of the changing religious and iconographic significance of a ‘recycled’ garment, and to enhance its interpretation for visitors to Auckland Castle.

A workshop was held to study the 'cope' and discuss research discoveries at the Oriental Museum, Durham, on 24 May 2017.



2010 University of Leeds:  PhD  Innovation, invention & failure: the case of regenerated protein fibres

2001 National Qualifications  & Curriculum Authority: National Vocational Qualification G3 Level 4 Development of the Museums, Galleries & Heritage Sector

1986 Textile Conservation Centre/Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London: Post-Graduate Diploma in Textile Conservation

1983 Council for National Academic Awards / Polytechnic of Central London: Post-graduate Diploma in Management Studies

1981 University of Cambridge: MA

1977 University of Cambridge: BA (Hons) English

Research Networks

2011 The Real Thing, Research Network for Textile Conservation, Dress and Textile History and Technical Art History, University of Glasgow (funded by the Getty Foundation)

2010-2013  Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior, 1500-1700, AHRC,

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2017: Celebrating Excellence:
  • 2016: Fellow of Society of Antiquaries (London):
  • 2016: Member of the Faith Museum Advisory Panel, Auckland Castle Bishop Auckland:


  • 2014: Celebrating Excellence: Invited to attend 'Celebrating Excellence', Durham University, 19 May 2014
  • 2014: Guest curator The Eye of the Needle Ashmolean Museum Oxford:

    The Eye of the Needle 1 August -12 Otober 2014

    The Eye of the Needle will display, for the first time in public, a selection of eye-catching, virtuoso 17th-century embroideries from the internationally renowned Feller Collection, together with outstanding examples from the Ashmolean’s own holdings.

    These remarkable embroideries include colourful raised and flatwork pictoral panels, beautiful samplers and household items such as boxes and cushions and dress accessories including caps, coifs and gloves.

    sublayerThe exhibition will explore the context in which these dramatic and technically exacting works were made, examining their importance in creating the ideal goodly and godly woman through the discipline of painstaking embroidery, reinforcing both social status and appropriate behaviour.

    Exquisite objects in their own right made with colourful silks, pearls, and semi-precious stones, the embroideries also reflect the religious, political and social concerns of the English Civil War period.

  • 2013: Pasold Research Fund Governor:
  • 2012: External Examiner, MA Heritage (Contemporary Practice) Kingston University (2012-2015):
  • 2010: Textile Conservation Foundation Trustee:

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

Research Interests

  • Cultural significance of heritage and museums, conservation and conservation’s contribution to the making of meaning
  • Educational methodologies for teaching and learning in professional education in heritage and conservation sectors
  • Material Things: Early Modern English Embroidery as Art, Social Practice and Material Culture
  • Material Things: Innovation, Fibres and War: the Agency of Regenerated Protein Fibres
  • Vestments and ecclesiastical textiles


Authored book

Chapter in book

Conference Paper

  • BROOKS, Mary M. (Forthcoming), ‘Astonish the world with your new fibre mixture’ producing, promoting and forgetting mid-twentieth century man-made protein fibres, THE AGE OF PLASTIC: Ingenuity & Responsibility. Washingron, D.C., USA, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
  • Brooks, Mary M. (2015), Sustaining Tacit and Embedded Knowledge in Textile Conservation and Textile and Dress Collections, in Summerour, R. & Zaret, C. eds, Textile Specialty Group, American Institute for Conservation, Annual Meeting, Postprints 24: Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Collection Care AIC 42nd Annual Meeting, 28-31 May 2014. San Francisco, USA, American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Washington, 1-10.
  • BROOKS, Mary M. (2013), Revealing the hidden: X-radiography as an investigative technique for textile conservation, in BUYLE, M. eds, 6: Het Onzichtbare Restaureren / Restaurer L’Invisible. Bereoepsvereninging voor Conservators-Restaurateurs van Kunstvoorwerpen VZW / Association Professionnelle de Conservateurs-Restaurateurs d’Oeuvres. Brussels, Flanders Heritage Agency, Brussels, 45-52.

Edited book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Full Executive Committee

Our Full Executive Committee is made up of the Core Executive Committee, listed above, plus a number of executive members including:

International Advisory Board

We are extremely fortunate to have be able to call on the help and guidance of colleagues from around the world who help to shape and guide our direction, strategy and international reach. Our current Advisory Board members are: