Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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Helen Graham

Associate Professor

0113 3431224

Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies Building, Room 319

Office hours: Flexible, by email

BA, MA and PhD University of York

Helen’s research lies at the intersection of political theory and participative and action-led forms of research. With museums, heritage and place as a focus, Helen investigates political dynamics of property, rights and claims; of democracy; of agency and affinity through experimenting with how small-scale participatory work can be combined with large scale ‘whole system’ action.



While Helen’s mixture of concerns can be traced to a number of experiences – her formative experiences of grassroots activism and direct democracy and her professional background seeking to do adult learning and community co-production in museums and local heritage projects – these approaches cohered as a result of work conducted as part of the co-designed Connected Communities project, ‘How should heritage decisions be made?’ project (2013-2015).

Since then Helen has embarked on two strands of research. The first in York – in collaboration with architect Phil Bixby – is a staging of large scale participatory public engagement process (My Future York / My Castle Gateway / My York Central) in key areas of urban regeneration and city-level development. The approaches developed through these projects have combined the personal through narrative, story-telling and imaginative methods to enable personal articulation (hence the ‘my’ in the project titles) with developing a new form of public sphere via inquiry-led forms of debate and discussion and an approach to change that actively works across scale and combines very short and much longer term timescales, from large scale institutional/government-led infrastructures and investment to tactical experiments and community-led action.

The second is via Bradford’s National Museum: Connecting Bradford and the National Science and Media Museum where Helen is working with the museum staff, other researchers and a number of project partners to explore connections between the museum and Bradford. Linking all the key issues – Bradford, the museum, communities, science and technology – is an exploration of the benefits of relational approaches through action-led and experimental methods.




Helen is Director of the MA in Arts Management and Heritage Studies. Helen also supervises dissertations at undergraduate and postgraduate level.


Helen is Director, Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage.


Journal articles

  • Brownlee-Chapman C, Chapman R, Eardley C, Forster S, Green V, Graham H, Harkness E, Headon K, Humphreys P, Ingham N, Ledger S, May V, Minnion A, Richards R, Tilley L, Townson L (2018) “Between speaking out in public and being person-centred: collaboratively designing an inclusive archive of learning disability history”, International Journal of Heritage Studies. 24.8: 889-903.
    DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2017.1378901, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/122237/

    The Living Archive of Learning Disability History is being developed by an inclusive team of researchers both with and without learning disabilities. We argue the archive is important in making publicly visible the lives of people with learning disabilities. Yet – drawing on thinking that came out of our collaborative workshops – we also identify alternative imperatives, that you might want to have control over how you share your personal memories and stories, with whom, when you share them and for how long. We show how we are responding to these different ideas in the design of the Living Archive in order to create pathways between two traditions that have emerged through self-advocacy: ‘speaking out in public’ and ‘being person-centred’. We outline our research on consent processes to ensure that our archive builds capacity for as many people as possible to consent while also offering a legally compliant ‘Best Interests’ process in line with the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act, England and Wales (2005). We argue that deploying and actively navigating between the different political logics of ‘speaking out in public’ and ‘being person-centred’ offers a way forward for ongoing debates concerning community engagement in archives, museums and heritage.

  • Graham HC (2017) “Publics and Commons: The problem of inclusion for participation”, ARKEN Bulletin. 7: 150-167.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/113386/

  • Graham HC (2016) “The ‘co’ in co-production: Museums, community participation and Science and Technology Studies”, Science Museum Group Journal. 5
    DOI: 10.15180/160502, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/97697/

  • Graham HC (2015) “Local Character”, RSA Journal. 2015.3: 40-41.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/95467/

  • Graham HC (2015) “Legitimate expertise: how decisions are made”, Context: The Institute of Historic Building Conservation. 142: 15-17.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/95466/

  • Graham HC (2015) “Where the Heritage Index points: Life, damn local life and statistics”, RSA blog.

  • Graham H, Hill K, Holland T, Pool S (2015) “When the workshop is working: The role of artists in collaborative research with young people and communities”, Qualitative Research Journal. 15.4: 404-415.
    DOI: 10.1108/QRJ-06-2015-0043, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/91439/

    © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose – This paper comes from workshop activities and structured reflection by a group of artists and researchers who have been using artistic practice within research projects aimed at enabling researchers to collaborate with communities. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach – Three out of four in the group have a practicing creative background and their own studio/workshop space. Findings – Artists are often employed – whether in schools or research projects – to run workshops; to bring a distinctive set of skills that enable learning or collaboration to take place. In this paper the authors reflect on the different meanings and connotations of “workshop” – as noun (as a place where certain types of activity happen, a bounded space) and a verb (to work something through; to make something together). From there the authors will then draw out the different principles of what artistic practice can offer towards creating a collaborative space for new knowledge to emerge. Research limitations/implications – Key ideas include different repertories of structuring to enable different forms of social interaction; the role of materal/ality and body in shifting what can be recognised as knowing; and the skills of “thinking on your feet”, being responsive and improvising. Originality/value – The authors will conclude by reflecting on aspects to consider when developing workshops as part of collaborative research projects.

  • Graham HC (2013) “Museums and How to Know about Access”, New Formations: a journal of culture/theory/politics. 79.4: 64-82.

  • Graham H, Mason R, Nayling N (2013) “The Personal is Still Political: Museums, Participation and Copyright”, Museum and Society. 11.2: 105-121.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/76817/

  • Graham HC (2012) “Scaling Governmentality: Museums, Co-production and re-calibrations of the 'logic of culture'”, Cultural Studies. 26.4: 565-592.
    DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2012.679285, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/74490/

    This article explores contemporary uses of museum co-production for public policy through a sustained theoretical engagement with Tony Bennett’s work on museums as an ‘object of government’. The specific focus is a theoretical discussion of the ‘logic of culture’ (Ray 2002; Bennett 2006) as it relates to new UK policy uses of participants’ ‘experience’ as the desired site of authenticity at the very same time as the process of expressing this authenticity is located as a site for reform. It is argued that Bennett mobilises two techniques of scale (fixing the analytic lens of governmentality and drawing on a strong scalar correspondence of power) in order to secure a relatively disciplinary reading of governmentality and to foreclose the resistant possibilities of cultural politics. Drawing on the differences between practices associated in UK museums with ‘access’ (which works through the dis-intensification of the difference between the museum and everyday life) and with ‘social impact’ (which requires a re-intensification of this difference in order to increase the visibility of effect), this article concludes by countering Bennett’s more disciplinary uses of Foucault with the Foucault of ‘The Subject and Power’. It is argued that the ‘logic of culture’ can be calibrated to varying intensities in considering the coming-into-relationship between the museums and those-to-be-involved. It is specifically argued – following Foucault’s spatializaton of ‘thought’ as distance (limit-attitude) and ‘counter-conduct’ as proximity – that the ‘logic of culture’ might be actively re-calibrated to use the spatialized dynamic of distance and proximity to create spaces which might allow the museum and its associated policy – not just those involved – to be affected by the co-production encounter.

  • Graham HC (2010) “How the tea is made; or, The scaling of “everyday life” in changing services for “people with learning disabilities””, British Journal of Learning Disabilities. 82.2: 133-143.
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-3156.2010.00637.x, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/43334/

    In the late 20th century the day services which had been set up for adults defined as having learning disabilities became understood as problematic because of the effects of segregation. The new solution became the adjustment of services in order to support a governmental form of personhood; a model of personhood defined by independence, the ability to make choices and be in control, to exercise rights and to take a place within the community and within society. This article tracks the technical changes to everyday life that underpinned this shift - specifically changes in tea making in Croydon’s day services since the late 1960s and techniques of person-centred planning via widely used policy and guidance documents. Through deploying the analytical lenses of ‘scope’ and ‘scale’, two questions are pursued: What is understood as legitimising a person with learning disabilities’ choice? On what scale does choice have to take place in order to be understood as realising ‘choice’ or ‘control’ as they are imagined in policy documents such as Valuing People?

  • Graham HC (2009) “Policy Review: Department of Culture, Media and Sport's Peer Review Pilot”, Cultural Trends. 18.4: 323-331.
    DOI: 10.1080/09548960903268147, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/43333/

    April 2009 saw the publication of the documents generated by the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport's museum Peer Review Pilot. This Policy Review offers both an overview of the process and a conceptual critique both of the Peer Review Pilot and the McMaster Review criteria on which the pilot was based. It is argued that the McMaster Review is grounded on a reading of excellence as “life-changing experiences” predicated on an imagined transformative aesthetic moment and that it is only by defining excellence in this way that McMaster could secure peer review as a legitimate means of identifying excellence. When transferred for the purposes of the Peer Review Pilot to the museum sector – with its long traditions of pedagogic and civic reform – this narrow reading of “changing lives” is no longer sustainable. The dislodging of the McMaster grounding assumption within the practice of the Peer Review Pilot creates conceptual fissures that can be traced throughout the Pilot's documentation. Specifically, a reading of the Pilot suggests both a need for a more careful reading of “peer”, a recognition of museums' multiple lines of accountability (including to the public) and the ongoing need for methodologies that might allow for an understanding of “life changing” within a much border frame.

  • Graham HC (2009) “Oral History, "Learning Disability" and Pedagogies of Self”, Oral History. 37.1: 85-94.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/43332/

    Oral history interviews are one form in a wider and changing formation of individualisation, personalisation and self-representation – a formation which is politically volatile. This article explores this volatility through one interview conducted as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘History of Day Centres for People with Learning Disabilities’ project. In his interview Tom Brown mobilises the idea of ‘free will’ to account for changes in his life – an account which both contradicts and challenges the professional assessment procedures and eligibility criteria which are likely to have determined his life course. To help explore the complexities of his account, the article traces the multiple histories of the interview showing the specific meanings of Tom’s claim to ‘free will’. The article concludes by arguing that the oral history interview needs to avoid simply becoming a ‘pedagogy of self’ used to support the production of a model personhood defined by ‘independence’ and ‘choice’. Instead oral history practice needs to retain its critical edge by specifically understanding the models of personhood being articulated through oral histories as not simply reflecting the past and present but creating the future.


  • Bashforth M, Benson M, Boon T, Brigham L, Brigham R, Brookfield K, Brown P, Callaghan D, Calvin JP, Courtney R, Cremin K, Furness P, Graham H, Hale A, Hodgkiss P, Lawson J, Madgin R, Manners P, Robinson D, Stanley J, Swan M, Timothy J, Turner R (2017) “Socialising heritage/socialising legacy”, In: Valuing Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research: Beyond Impact. 85-106
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/112925/

  • Graham HC (2017) “Horizontality: Tactical Politics for Participation and Museums”, In: Onciul B; Stefano ML; Hawke S (eds.) Engaging Heritage: Engaging Communities. Heritage Matters. Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/99410/

    Across the global networks of heritage sites, museums, and galleries, the importance of communities to the interpretation and conservation of heritage is increasingly being recognised. Yet the very term "meaningful community engagement" betrays a myriad of contrary approaches and understandings. Who is a community? How can they engage with heritage and why would they want to? How do communities and heritage professionals perceive one another? What does it mean to "engage"? These questions unsettle the very foundations of community engagement and indicate a need to unpick this important but complex trend. Engaging Heritage, Engaging Communities critically explores the latest debates and practices surrounding community collaboration. By examining the different ways in which communities participate in heritage projects, the book questions the benefits, costs and limitations of community engagement. Whether communities are engaging through innovative initiatives or in response to economic, political or social factors, there is a need to understand how such engagements are conceptualised, facilitated and experienced by both the organisations and the communities involved.

  • Brigham R, Brigham L, Brown P, Graham HC (2016) “Living with History in York: Increasing participation from where you are”, In: Chitty G (eds.) Heritage, Conservation and Communities : Engagement, participation and capacity building. Heritage, Culture and Identity. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. 143-162
    DOI: 10.4324/9781315586663, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/95465/

    Two of us – Lianne and Richard – are administrators on a Facebook page titled ‘York Past and Present’. The title ‘Past and Present’ sums up what we’ve been working on together for the past 18 months. We’ve been trying to understand the ways in which York’s heritage, as it is understood through photos, memories, buildings and collections, affects the lives of people living in York today and, more specifically, how more people can become actively involved in shaping decision-making about heritage and, through this, shaping decision-making about the future of the city more generally.

  • Graham HC (2016) “Museums are not representative (and this is a good thing for participation)”, In: McSweeney K; Kavanagh J (eds.) Museum Participation: New directions for Audience Collaboration. Edinburgh: MuseumsEtc.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/95915/

  • Graham HC (2010) “To Label the Label?: 'Learning Disability', and Exhibiting 'Critical Proximity'”, In: Sandell R; Dodd J; Garland-Thomson R (eds.) Re-Presenting Disability. Routledge. 115-129
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/43645/

  • Graham HC, Mason R, Whitehead C “Place shaped and place shaping: The role of a civic art gallery then and no”, In: Convery I; Davies P; Corsane G (eds.) Making Sense of Place. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer.

    In press

  • Graham HC, Mason R, Whitehead C “From One Voice to Many Voices: Creating Polyvocality in an Art Gallery Display”, In: Golding V; Modest W (eds.) Collaborative Museums: Communities, Curators, Collections.

    In press


  • Graham HC, Banks S, Bastian M, Durose C, Hill K, Holland T, McNulty A, Moore N, Pahl K, Siebers J (2015) “‘Ways of Knowing’: Exploring the different registers, values and subjectivities of collaborative research”, In: ‘Ways of Knowing’: Exploring the different registers, values and subjectivities of collaborative research.

    ‘Accounts of the real world do not, then, depend on the logic of “discovery” but on a power-charged social relation of “conversation”’ (Haraway 1998, p. 593) ‘Ways of Knowing’ was a ‘follow up’ project developed from discussions which took place at the AHRC Connected Communities Summit in 2012. Everyone involved in ‘Ways of Knowing’ had already been involved in other Connected Communities projects and had substantial collective experience of hosting, facilitating and attending participatory and collaborative events, workshops or meetings. We used ‘Ways of Knowing’ as a reflective space where we might come together to experiment with the ways we structure collaboration and to understand better the kinds of ‘research’ and ‘knowledge’ made possible by different methods of staging collaboration. We sought to address the epistemic questions raised by collaborative research, methods, outcomes and impacts by self-consciously deploying the different approaches members of the team had used within our previous collaborative research practice. We did this through trying out a wide range of methods from design, arts practice and storytelling to a Consensus Workshop and Socratic Dialogue. At the heart of collaborative methods lie different ways of imagining and bringing into relationship the individual and collective. What we offer here is an account of how different approaches we explored configured and imagined ‘individual’, ‘collectivity’, ‘knowing’ and ‘change’. Through this we suggest ways in which those interested in collaboration might self-consciously draw on a repertoire of approaches, figurations and ways of being together in their research, teaching, work or activism.

  • Graham HC How should heritage decisions be made?: Increasing participation from where you are.

    The full list of contributors are: http://heritagedecisions.leeds.ac.uk/research-team/

    Heritage is about what we value: places, buildings, objects, memories, cultures, skills or ways of life. So why can it be so hard to get actively involved in heritage decision-making? Heritage becomes defined when decisions are made: what to preserve, what to show, what to think of as worth celebrating and sharing. In our research project we explored how such decisions could be opened up to greater participation.

  • Graham HC, Mason R, Newman A Historic Environment, Social Capital and Sense of Place: A Literature Review’.

  • Graham HC, Mason R, Nayling N Earning Legitimacy: Participation, Intellectual Property and Informed Consent.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/74491/

    A booklet linking politics and practice aimed at museum practitioners and researchers working with museums

Research Projects & Grants

Bradford’s National Museum: Connecting Bradford and the National Science and Media Museum (Arts and Humanities Research Council, H/P008585/1)

My Castle Gateway and My York Central

Previous Research Projects:

Developing a co-produced, digital, and living archive of learning disability history: An exploration of ethics, ownership and new connectivities

April 2013-April 2016

CI with Dr Elizabeth Tilley (Open University) (PI) and Andy Minnon (Rix Centre, UEL) (CI) (Arts and Humanities Research Council, AH/K007459/1, £998,555)

Including University of Leeds-based PhD studentship.

My Future York

AHRC Connected Communities Festival 2016

Recent Research Council UK Research projects:

‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’: Co-designing a research project

University of Leeds (February 2013-June 2015)

PI with a research team of fourteen. Martin Bashforth (York’s Alternative History and Radical Historian), Mike Benson (Director, Bede’s World), Tim Boon (Head of Research and Public History, Science Museum), Karen Brookfield (Deputy Director, Strategy, Heritage Lottery Fund), Peter Brown (Director, York Civic Trust), Danny Callaghan (Independent Consultant and Co-ordinator for Prescot Townscape Heritage Initiative: ‘Building Stories’ and ‘The Potteries Tile Trail’ (HLF All Our Stories)), Richard Courtney (University of Leicester), Alex Hale (Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments Scotland), Paul Manners (Director, National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement), Jennifer Timothy (Senior Building Conservation Officer, Leicester City Council), Rachael Turner, (MadLab and ‘The Ghosts of St Pauls’ project (HLF All Our Stories)).

(Arts and Humanities Research Council, Connected Communities Programme, Co-design Development Grant Programme, AH/K006754/1, £124,143.55)


Storystorm Network +, part of the EPSRC Culture and Communities Network +

CI with Mel Woods (PI), Debbie Maxwell, Edinburgh College of Art (CI) and Daisy Abbott, Glasgow School of Art (CI)

(EPSRC, £15,036)


Pararchive: Open Access Community Storytelling and the Digital Archive

(September 2013-March 2014)

CI with Simon Popple (PI) with Science Museum, RCAHMS, Potteries Tile Trial and MadLab

(Arts and Humanities Research Council, Connected Communities/Digital Transformations Programme, AH/L007800/1, £477,000)


Connecting Epistemologies: Methods and Early Career Researchers in the Connected Communities Programme

February 2014-January 2015

CI with Dave O’Brien (PI, City), Mark Taylor (CI, University of Manchester) and Peter Matthews (CI, Harriot Watt), Katie Hill (CI, Community Partner, Love Leeds)

(Arts and Humanities Research Council, AH/L013088/1, c£40,000)


Co-producing legacy: What is the role of artists within Connected Communities projects?

February 2014-January 2015

CI with Kate Pahl (PI, University of Sheffield), Steve Pool (CI, The Poly-Technic), Amanda Raveetz (CI, Manchester Metropolitan University) (Arts and Humanities Research Council, Connected Communities Legacies programme, AH/L013185/1, c£100,000)


Heritage Legacies

February 2014-January 2015

CI with Jo Vergunst (PI, University of Aberdeen), Bob Johnston (University of Sheffield) and David Wyatt (Cardiff University) (Arts and Humanities Research Council, Connected Communities Legacies programme, c£100,000)


Previous RCUK projects 2008-2014:

Heritage Inquiries

University of Leeds (June-July 2014)

PI with collaborators from ‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’ and ‘Heritage Legacies’ to develop publications and run events at the AHRC Connected Communities Festival.

(Arts and Humanities Research Council, Connected Communities Programme, £12,600)

Ways of Knowing: Exploring the different registers, values and subjectivities of collaborative research

University of Leeds (February 2013-February 2014)

PI with Professor Sarah Banks (Durham University), Michelle Bastian (University of Edinburgh), Catherine Durose (University of Birmingham), Katie Hill (Sheffield Hallam University), Tessa Holland (West End Housing Co-op), Ann McNulty (HAREF: Health and Race Equality Forum), Niamh Moore ((University of Manchester), Kate Pahl (University of Sheffield), Steve Pool (artist), Johan Siebers (University of Central Lancashire) (Arts and Humanities Research Council, Connected Communities Programme, AH/K006568/1, £43,579.31)


Approaching Cultural Value as a Complex System: Experiencing the Arts and Articulating the City in Leeds

(September 2013 – May 2014)

CI with Professor Stuart Murray (PI), Ben Walmlsey (CI) and Lorraine Blakemore (CI)

(Arts and Humanities Research Council, Cultural Value Programme, AH/L006308/1, £39,085.83)


Tackling Ethical Issues in Community-Based Research: A Practical Resource

CI with Professor Sarah Banks (PI) with Andrea Armstrong (Researcher, Durham), Niamh Moore (CI, Manchester) and Nigel Nayling (CI, Trinity Saint David, Wales). Project partners: Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Thrive, Lik:t. Glasgow Life/Glasgow Museums, the Friends of Newport Ship and Over the Waves as community partners and the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (Arts and Humanities Research Council, AH/J006645/1, £40,000)


Partnerships and Participation: Copyright and Informed Consent

Newcastle University (February 2011-October 2011)

CI and named researcher with Rhiannon Mason (PI) and Nigel Nayling (CI) (Arts and Humanities Research Council, AH/J500743/1, £40,000)


Art on Tyneside: Place, Art, Identity

Newcastle University (November 2008-February 2011)

Research Associate with Rhiannon Mason (PI) and Chris Whitehead (CI) (Arts and Humanities Research Council, AH/G000654/1))


Commissioned research projects 2013:

‘All Access Camp Digital Media Camp in Context’

PI (Smithsonian Institution, £10,000.00)


‘A network approach to community engagement: Family learning at Temple Newsam House’

PI (Leeds Museums and Galleries, £1750.00)

External Appointments

Editor, Museum and Society

Advisory Board, Science Museum Group Journal

Advisory Group, British Museum’s Object Journeys project

Heritage 2020, Discovery, Identification and Understanding Group

PhD & Postdoctoral Supervision

Current PhD students:


Leandra Koenig-Visagie, ‘Gender in the South African Artworld’

Bing Wang, ‘The politics of regional museums in China’

Carley Stubbs, PhD link to AHRC ‘Developing a co-produced, digital, and living archive of learning disability history: An exploration of ethics, ownership and new connectivities’

Julia Ankenbrand, ‘Action Researching Conditions for Participatory Practice – A study into how attitudes and organisational aspects impact public engagement at the British Museum’ (Collaborative Doctoral Award with the British Museum)

Laura Swithernbank ‘Sharing Economies’ (AHRC funded)

Arran Rees, ‘The object of digital collecting: Developing social media collections in the museum’

Previous PhD students who have completed:

Liz Stainforth, ‘Digital heritage and memory institutions’ (AHRC funded).

Joanne Williams, ‘Contemporary art as heritage interpretation: Visitors perspectives’ (AHRC funded)

Sarah Harvey Richardson, ‘Audience Development at the Hepworth: an action research approach’ (AHRC funded)

Jade French, AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with Bluecoat, Liverpool exploring curation as self-advocacy for people with learning difficulties.


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