Curator/Collections Researcher
Kathleen Lawther
Collections Researcher

I am a freelance curator who specialises in documenting museum collections to make them more accessible. I’m passionate about the information that museums record, preserve and share about their collections, and the need to get real about the problematic aspects of museums, both past and present.


the Museum Studies school building at the University of Leicester

Doctoral Research

My research seeks to investigate how the history and practice of collections documentation has impacted the representation of museum collections in the digital cultural record.

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photograph album page with six black and white snapshots of women with the caption 'Somali'

Headley Fellowship

I was awarded a Headley Fellowship from the Art Fund to work with Powell-Cotton Museum on a project looking at how the museum records and shares the stories of people who were involved in the Powell-Cotton family’s collecting.

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red brick victorian museum building

Ipswich Museum World Collections

Ipswich Museum is a local authority museum which first opened in 1881. In 2020 they were awarded a Development Grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a project focusing on ‘the museum’s outstanding Victorian heritage – the philanthropists, industrialists and scientists who started it; the collections; the fascinating cast of characters who collected them and the museum building they built to house them.’

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People-Centred Cataloguing

Created as part of my Art Fund Headley Fellowship with the Powell-Cotton Museum, this resource explains the approach to cataloguing which I took during the project. The publication includes suggestions and case studies for how museums might take a more people-centred approach to their collections documentation work.  

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Content warnings for online collections

Suggestions for successfully applying content warnings to digital collections content and publicly available museum databases, based on a survey of current practice in across the websites of 25 GLAM institutions.

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Doing the Work report

I wrote a report summarising the discussions from the workshop Doing the Work: Documenting Collections. The result, Documentation as a Site for Critical Decolonial and Anti-Racist Work, has been published alongside essays covering the other workshops in the series, edited by Anjalie Dalal-Clayton and Ilaria Puri Purini.

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a user research workshop taking place at a community centre. Two women are standing and talking, other women sit listening and discussing. There are shelved with Somali cultural objects in the background.

User research for collections content

Who are the users of the information that museums research and record about their collections? In many cases full collections records are only accessible internally. That information may then be mediated through curatorial, interpretation, and other teams to create a public facing output.

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screenshot of instagram grid of black and white photographs of people

Using Instagram for collections engagement

This post explains my use of Instagram to share digitised photographs from the Powell-Cotton Museum collections, with the aim of increasing access and raising awareness of the collection among Somali and Somali diaspora audiences. I am not a professional social media manager, so I made use of available tutorials and advice, and applied my ideas about collections engagement to creating Instagram content. Read More

Numbering Photographs

This blog post explains the process of creating a numbering system for the photographs in the Powell-Cotton Museum’s collections. It is not written as a ‘how to’ or even what I would necessarily recommend as best practice, but rather an attempt to describe the process of arriving at a system that works in this specific context. The Collections Trust sensibly recommends not re-numbering a collection, but in this case while the photographs had been numbered, it did not constitute a logical system that made sense in a modern museum context. Read More