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Dr Sam Aylett

Profile summary

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Professional biography

I received my PhD in History/Art History from the Open University in 2020 with a thesis entitled 'The Museum of London 1976-2007: Reimagining Metropolitan Narratives in Postcolonial London'. Before this I studied History (BA Hons) and Modern World History (MA) at Brunel University London from 2008-2015. 

Research interests

Broadly speaking, my research is concerned with the place and value of empire in British culture in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Specifically, I am interested in the museum as a site for examining shifting representations of empire and public engagement with histories of empire. My research is interdisciplinary, and I work across the fields of imperial history, material culture studies, museum studies and critical heritage studies. More recently, I have developed research interests in the social power of architecture and the power that space and architecture assert over the museum visiting experience, especially how museum design affects representations of empire. 

As a member of the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies at the Open University, I am currently preparing a working paper that aims to foreground African voices, actors and perspectives in our history of restitution and current public discourse. 

Teaching interests

As a Visiting Fellow I have been helping to develop new teaching resources for the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies at the Open University with Dr John Slight. I have recently concluded the first stage of one of several projects: Biographies of Notable Female African and Asian figures from the 19th and 20th Centuries. This resource was developed as a starting point for understanding social, cultural and political changes in Africa and Asia, with a particular emphasis on feminist politics, suffrage movements, independence movements and anti-colonial activism: Ferguson Centre, 'Biographies of Notable Female African and Asian figures from the 19th and 20th Centuries', (Sam Aylett & John Slight)

From September 2018 - September 2019 I was an assistant lecturer and module team assistant for the pionerring A326 module,  'Empire 1492 - 1975'.

From April 2017 - September 2019, I worked as a PhD Tutor for the Brilliant Club, a UK charity that exists to increase the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds progressing to highly selective universities. I designed and taught my own module based on my own PhD research: Museums and Empire: Legacies of Slavery.

Impact and engagement

Conference Presentations

  • (Accepted) 'Designing Imperial London at The Museum of London, 1976', Museum Exhibition Design: Histories and Futures, hosted by the Centre for Design History at the University of Brighton, 1-11 September 2020. 
  • 'Cultural Restiution: Foregrounding African Voices', Empire and Decolonisation workshop, The Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies and Postcolonial and Global Literatures Research Group, 9-10 July 2020.
  • 'City Museums and Representations of Empire in 20th Century Britain', Research Seminar on the History of Colonialism, 28 January 2020, Institute of Contemporary History — NOVA School of Social Sciences and Humanities.
  • 'Imperial London to London, Sugar & Slavery: Empire at the Museum of London and the Museum of London Docklands 1976-2007', Researching Empire Workshop, 12 July 2019, Open University.
  • 'Pride, Empire and Postcolonial Approaches at the Museum of London 1976-1993', New Museum Conversations, 24 October 2018, Museum of London, London Wall.
  • 'The Museum of London’s Permanent Galleries, 1976: Prosperity, Trade and Empire', PhD Research Day, 8 June 2018, Open University, Milton Keynes.
  • 'The Rise and Fall of the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum', Heritage, Diversity and the Legacies of Empire, 17 May 2013, Institute for Historical Institute


I am a contributing editor for Maily Museums a volunteer-organised website dedicated to collecting personal views on museums from across the globe. 

External collaborations

Co-convenor and founder of the Postcolonial Heritage Research Group

The Postcolonial Heritage Research Group is a postgraduate research network aimed at providing a common platform to share writings and ideas, propose events, while promoting complex and provocative research across a number of inter-related questions pertaining to representations of empire, colonialism, and slavery at museums and art galleries.The group was founded in 2019 by myself, Matthew Jones (Sussex) and Advia Lawrence (Hull). A summary of our inaugural symposium can be read here: