Cardiff School of Art & Design>Staff>Professor Gaynor Kavanagh

Professor Gaynor Kavanagh DPhil MPhil FMA

Screen-shot-2012-02-16-at-16.44.48-150x100.pngEmeritus Professor


Specialist Subject Areas

Memory, objects and the senses; memory, identity and life stages; museum studies; historiographic curatorial practices; museum management; museum ethics and professional practice; social history of First World War.


MPhil (Leicester)
DPhil (UWE)
Fellow of the Museums Association


Professor Kavanagh was educated at Abersychan Grammar-Technical School and studied history and then museum studies at the University of Leicester. She holds both a DPhil and an MPhil. A qualified and experienced curator, she was part of the world-renowned Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester between 1980 and 1999. She left to set up the Graduate School at Bath Spa University.

Between 2000 and 2004 she was Dean of Media and Culture at Falmouth College of Art. Professor Kavanagh then took a year out because of her father’s failing health, during which time she taught museum studies on a fractional basis at Winchester School of Art and chaired their Research Committee. She became head of Cardiff School of Art & Design at Cardiff Metropolitan University (UWIC) in October 2005 and was made Dean in August 2006. Professor Kavanagh retired from the University in October 2015.

She has been an advisor to the National Railway Museum, York, the National Museum of Wales and the National Audit Office. She is the author of three books, including Dream Spaces (2000) and has edited a further seven books.

In 2014, Professor Kavanagh was appointed by the Wales Assembly to the Expert Panel convened to review Local Government Museums in Wales.  The Panel’s report was published by the Assembly in September 2015.

She continues to advise arts and museums bodies and is involved with a number of training and development initiatives.

Current research

Her most recent project, which was funded by the British Academy, is called Material Difficulties: Objects and Narratives that Disturb and Affect. She is interested in the importance of the senses in the making of meaning, especially where memory is impaired or subject to extremes of experience.

Professor Kavanagh is currently developing a publication on working with objects and space in educational and therapeutic environments.

Principal Publications, Exhibitions and Awards


(2000), Dream Spaces: Memory and the Museum, Leicester University Press, Leicester

(1994), Museums and the First World War, Leicester University Press, Leicester

(1990), History Curatorship, Leicester University Press, Leicester

Edited Books

(1998), Making City Histories in Museums, Leicester University Press, Leicester

(1996), Making Histories in Museums, Leicester University Press, Leicester

(1994), Museum Provision and Professionalism: Leicester Reader in Museums Studies, Routledge, London

(1991), Museum Languages: Objects and Texts, Leicester University Press, Leicester

(1991), Museums Profession: Internal and External Relations, Leicester University Press, Leicester

Book Chapters / Essays [inc. exhibition catalogues]

(2007), Kavanagh, G, ‘Museums in a Broken World’ in J. Osmond (ed), Myths, Memories and Futures: the National Library and National Museum in the Story of Wales, p47-57, Cardiff: Institute of Welsh Affairs

(2007), Kavanagh, G, ‘Talismans of Affinity’ in Agenda, p62-4, Cardiff: Institute of Wales Affairs

(2004), Kavanagh, G, ‘Museums and the lightness of life’ in Nordisks Museologi, (2), p 37-46.

(2003), Kavanagh, G, ‘Melodrama, pantomime of portrayal? Representing ourselves through exhibitions in history museums’ in B.M. Carbonell. (ed), Museum Studies, p 348-355. Oxford: Blackwell.

Conference Papers / Presentations

(2015) Kavanagh, G. Cardiff’s Art School: In the Beginning, Public lecture to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of Cardiff School of Art & Design, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff.

(2008), Kavanagh, G, Objects that speak? Projections and obfuscations in our relationships with the material world, Material Worlds Conference, University of Leicester

(2005), Kavanagh, G. Hard truths and bitter realities. In: Museums Association Conference, Keynote session, London.

(2005), Kavanagh, G. Weighing the years: memory and the sense of touch. In: 1st Annual Lectures in Memory. Southampton: University of Southampton.

(2005), Kavanagh, G. Life stages and material memories. In: Cultural Memory Series, University of London.

(2003), Kavanagh, G. Public lecture and seminar at the British Museum on museums and the mind, as part of the BM’s 250th anniversary celebrations, 2003

(2004), Kavanagh, G. Solid air: objects and memories. In: The European Reminiscence Conference, London.

Exhibitions / Events

2008 presented research paper to the Department of Art History, University of Reading

Advisory Panel Member, National Railway Museum, York

Advisory Panel Member, National History Museum, St Fagans

2006 Lecture for Institute of Welsh Affairs at the National Museum of Wales; Inaugural Lecture, Cardiff Metropolitan University (UWIC)

2003 Public lecture and seminar at the British Museum on museums and the mind, as part of the BM’s 250th anniversary celebrations. Research Residencies

Membership of Professional Bodies

Museums Association (Fellow)