The programme I manage covers most of the Gallery’s work with schools, including all primary school sessions and secondary school subjects including history, citizenship and English literature (but not art or photography). I am responsible for the content and delivery of sessions and for creating various digital resources for schools. As well as managing freelance Gallery educators, I teach pupils in the Gallery, provide sessions for teachers on how to use portraits in their teaching, and work at the Gallery’s regional partnerships with National Trust volunteers. I also give occasional lectures and tours for visitors and staff.
I studied history at the University of East Anglia and Oxford and then trained as a primary school teacher, working in Harlow and later as a VSO teacher educator in the Republic of Maldives. I published my thesis as Death, Burial and the Individual in Early Modern England in 1984, opening up the hitherto unexplored area of the history of death, and in 1999 co-edited Death in England: An Illustrated History. In 1989 I joined the Education Department of the Gallery. As well as my work in the Gallery, I have contributed two exhibitions about death at Dulwich Picture Gallery, and to Masters Courses at the Universities of Reading and Bath, where I am Visiting Research Fellow in the Centre for Death and Society. I also am on the editorial board of the journal Mortality and have spoken at conferences and published articles, reviews and book chapters on the history of death.
I am interested in interdisciplinary approaches to social history and in particular, through my work at the Gallery, in using artworks as well as documentary sources. Recent projects have included working with a leading sociologist of death, Professor Tony Walter, to compare requests for burial in gardens and fields in the eighteenth- and late twentieth-centuries. I am currently working on portraits where someone who has died appears in the image with the sitter, as a framed picture, photograph or sculpture. Most recently I have begun to research images depicting apotheoses, both of royalty and of ‘heroes’.
Recent publications include ‘The Art of Dying’ in The Study of Dying, edited by Allan Kellehear (2009) and chapters co-authored with Tony Walter in two edited volumes of sociological studies of death (2010), as well as various book reviews.