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Prof Andrea Witcomb



Professor Of Cultural Heritage And Museum Studies


Faculty of Arts and Education


SHSS Arts & Ed


Melbourne Burwood Campus


Graduate Diploma of Museum Studies, University of Sydney, 2006
Doctor of Philosophy, Central Queensland University, 1997
Bachelor of Arts, University of Sydney, 1988



Andrea graduated with a PhD in Media and Communication Studies from Central Queensland University in 1997 (her dissertation looked at the Australian National Maritime Museum and situated it within emerging practices in the new museology). She has a Graduate Diploma in Museum Studies and an Honours Degree in History from the University of Sydney. She worked as a social history curator in the lead up to the opening of the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney and then at the National Museum of Australia. After completing her PhD she took up a lectureship in cultural heritage at the Research Institute for Cultural Heritage at Curtin University in Perth in 1996. She was promoted to a Senior Lecturer in 2000. In 2006 she took up an appointment as an Associate Professor (Research) at Deakin University. She was promoted to Professor at the end of 2013. She is the author of Re-Imagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum (Routledge, 2003) and the co-author of From the Barracks to the Burrup: The National Trust in Western Australia (University of NSW Press, 2010) with Kate Gregory.  Her edited books include South Pacific Museums: An Experiment in Culture (Monash e-press, 2006) with Chris Healy and, with Kylie Message, Museum Theory, which is volume 1 of the International Handbooks of Museum Studies co-edited by Sharon Macdonald and Helen Rees Leahy (Wiley and Sons 2015). 

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Research interests

Andrea's research interests range across the museum and heritage fields and are informed by theoretical, historical and professional practice concerns. She brings an interdisciplinary approach to her research, locating her work at the intersection of history, museology and cultural studies. Her interests include
1) Theorising museum practice using cultural studies approaches to the study of exhibitions and the policy discourses that surround them.
2) Embedding these within an awareness of institutional practices and ethos, that is speaking from practice up to theoretical debates rather than the other way round.
3) Focussing on relations between museums and communities.
4) Focussing on the concept of interactivity, using this to understand the impact of current media culture on exhibition design and interpretation practices.
Her contribution to theorizing museums has been to create a parallel space to the governmentality approach informed by the work of Michel Foucault. She has developed an argument for museums as dialogic spaces which use a variety of interpretation strategies and curatorial practices to engage in conversation across difference. She has opened up a space in which museums can be thought of as spaces of potentiality rather than either hegemonic closure or consumed by instrumentalist forms of governmentality.
She has done this along two main axis. The first is through studies of relations between museums and communities where she has looked at the representation of migration and cultural diversity  (Witcomb 1998, 2003, 2009 and with Hutchison, 2013 ) and at the ways in which local museums respond to governmentalist agendas  (Witcomb and Mauldon 1996, Witcomb 2003). The other has been to analyse the ways in which contemporary media culture has influenced interpretation strategies, either by creating spaces in which visitors can insert themselves into the exhibitions  (Witcomb 1994, 2003, 2007) or, more recently, by exploring the connection between the use of multimedia and spaces for cross-cultural communication that aim to bridge cultural difference rather than emphasising the separation between groups around identity. In this context Andrea is interested in exploring affective experiences in museums and heritage sites either through the use of multimedia  (Witcomb 2007, 2015), the art of installation  (Witcomb and Gregory 2007) and through objects  (2009, 2013, 2016).


Museums Australia
International Cultural Studies Association

Teaching interests

Andrea's approach to teaching is always to bring a discussion of practice in conversation with a knowledge of the theory about and the history of, the institutions engaged in producing and representing cultural heritage.

Units taught

Andrea teaches AIM 727 (Exhibitions) and AIM 715 (Virtual Heritage)

Knowledge areas

History and theory of museums

The uses of multimedia in exhibitions and heritage sites

Using heritage to develop cross-cultural understanding

The interpretation of difficult histories

Relations between museums and communities

Professional activities

Director, Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific
National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Collections Committee
Historians Special Interest Group Committee, Museums Australia
Member of editorial boards for the following Journals: International Journal of Cultural Studies (Sage); Museum and Society; International Journal of Heritage Studies (Routledge); Public History Review, MIDAS.


Current research projects include:
1) An ARC funded project, 'Collecting the West' (LP160100078) led by Prof Alistair Patterson from UWA and Prof. Andrea Witcomb from Deakin. Other Chief Investigators include Professor Jane Lydon, Professor Stephen Hopper; Professor Jenny Gregory; Dr Shino Konishi; Dr Jacqueline Van Gent; Dr Toby Burrows; Dr Tiffany Shellam. The industry partners include the Western Australian Museum, The Alexander State Library, the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Brittish Museum.

Recent projects include:

2) An ARC funded project, Australian Heritage Abroad: Managing Australia's Extraterritorial War Heritage (DP1094418). Andrea is the lead CI on this project with Prof. William Logan from CHCAP, Dr Bart Ziino (Deakin) and Professor Joan Beaumont (ANU).

3) An ARC funded project, "Collecting institutions: cultural diversity and the making of citizenship in Australia since the 1970s" (DP120100594). Andrea is the lead CI with A/Prof. Kylie Message (ANU), Dr Ian Mcshane (Swinburne), and PIs Prof. Simon Knell (Leicester University, UK) and Prof. Arne Amundsen (University of Oslo).

4) 'Museum Theory' a volume (co-editing with A/Prof. Kylie Message from the ANU) that is part of a series called the International Handbooks of Museum Studies commissioned by Blackwell. The general series is edited by Professor Sharon MacDonald and Dr Helen Rees Leahy.

5) A series of papers exploring the relationships between objects, exhibitions and affect.


Filter by


Remembering and fighting for their own: Vietnam veterans and the Long Tan cross

L Cramer, A Witcomb

(2018), Vol. 49, pp. 83-102, Australian historical studies, Abingdon, Eng., C1


'Hidden from view'? An analysis of the integration of women's history and women's voices into Australia's social history exhibitions

A Witcomb, L Cramer

(2018), International journal of heritage studies, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Melancholy and the continent of fire

T Bristow, A Witcomb

(2016), pp. 72-86, A cultural history of climate change, London, Eng., B1


Beyond sentimentality and glorification: using a history of emotions to deal with the horrors of war

A Witcomb

(2016), Vol. 1, pp. 205-220, Memory, place and identity : commemoration and remembrance of war and conflict, Abingdon, Eng., B1


The Thai-Burma Railway: asymmetrical and transitional memories

J Beaumont, A Witcomb

(2015), Vol. 101, pp. 67-88, The Pacific War: Aftermaths. remembrance and culture, Abingdon, Eng., B1


Cultural pedagogies in the museum: walking, listening and feeling

A Witcomb

(2015), pp. 158-170, Cultural pedagogies and human conduct, London, Eng., B1


Thinking about others through museums and heritage

A Witcomb, A Witcomb

(2015), pp. 130-143, The Palgrave handbook of contemporary heritage research, Basingstoke, Eng., B1


Introduction: museum theory, an expanded field

K Message, A Witcomb

(2015), Vol. 1, pp. xxv-Lxiii, Museum theory, Oxford, Eng., B1


Toward a pedagogy of feeling: understanding how museums create a space for cross-cultural encounters

A Witcomb

(2015), pp. 321-344, Museum theory, Chichester, Eng, B1


Cross-cultural encounters and 'difficult heritage' on the Thai-Burma railway: an ethics of cosmopolitanism rather than practices of exclusion

A Witcomb

(2015), Vol. 28, pp. 461-478, A companion to heritage studies, Oxford, Eng., B1


Migration exhibitions and the question of identity: reflections on the history of the representation of migration in Australian museums, 1986-2011

M Hutchison, A Witcomb

(2014), pp. 228-243, Museums and Migration: History, memory and Politics, London, Eng., B1


"Look, Listen and Feel": The first peoples exhibition at the Bunjilaka Gallery, Melbourne Museum

A Witcomb

(2014), Vol. 1, pp. 49-62, Thema La revue des Musées de la civilistion, Québec City, C1


Using immersive and interactive approaches to interpreting traumatic experiences for tourists: potentials and limitations

A Witcomb, A Witcomb

(2013), pp. 152-170, Heritage and tourism : place, encounter, engagement, Oxon, Eng., B1


Testimony, memory, and art at the Jewish Holocaust museum, Melbourne, Australia

A Witcomb

(2013), pp. 260-274, Museums and communities : curators, collections and collaboration, London, England, B1


Messages from Long Tan, Vietnam: memorialisation, reconciliation, and historical justice

W Logan, A Witcomb

(2013), Vol. 45, pp. 255-278, Critical Asian studies, Essex, Eng., C1


Understanding the role of affect in producing a critical pedagogy for history museums

A Witcomb

(2013), Vol. 28, pp. 255-271, Museum management and curatorship, London, England, C1


Engaging with the future of 'critical heritage studies': looking back in order to look forward

A Witcomb, K Buckley

(2013), Vol. 19, pp. 562-578, International journal of heritage studies, Abingdon, England, C1


Using souvenirs to rethink how we tell histories of migration : some thoughts

A Witcomb

(2012), pp. 36-50, Narrating Objects, Collecting Stories, Abingdon, England, B1


On memory, affect and atonement : the Long Tan memorial cross(es)

A Witcomb

(2012), Vol. 24, pp. 35-42, Historic environment, Melbourne, Vic, C1


From the barracks to the burrup : The National Trust in Western Australia

A Witcomb, K Gregory

(2010), Sydney, N.S.W., A1


Remembering the dead by affecting the living : the case of a miniature model of Treblinka

A Witcomb

(2010), pp. 39-52, Museum materialities : objects, engagements, interpretations, New York, N. Y., B1


Dealing with the past in the present : why displaying the art of holocaust is important

A Witcomb

(2010), pp. 12-15, Out of the dark : the emotional legacy of the Holocaust, Parkville, Vic., J2


The politics and poetics of contemporary exhibition making : towards an ethical engagement with the past

A Witcomb

(2010), pp. 245-264, Hot topics, public culture, museums, Newcastle, England, B1


Migration, social cohesion and cultural diversity : can museums move beyond pluralism

A Witcomb

(2009), Vol. 15, pp. 49-66, Humanities research, Canberra, A.C.T., C1


The past in the present: towards a politics of care at the national trust of Australia (WA)

A Witcomb

(2008), pp. 169-180, Heritage and identity: engagement and demission in the contemporary world, Abingdon, Eng., B1-1


The materiality of virtual technologies : a new approach to thinking about the impact of multimedia in museums

A Witcomb

(2007), pp. 35-48, Theorizing digital cultural heritage : a critical discourse, Cambridge, Mass., B1


Growing up between two languages/two worlds: learning to live without belonging to terra

A Witcomb

(2007), pp. 83-95, Translating lives : living with two languages and cultures, St Lucia, Qld., B1


Beyond nostalgia : the role of affect in generating historical understanding at heritage sites

K Gregory, A Witcomb

(2007), pp. 263-275, Museum revolutions : how museums change and are changed, London, England, B1


An architecture of rewards: a new poetics to exhibition design?

A Witcomb

(2007), pp. 19-33, Museology, [Greece], C1


How style came to matter : do we need to move beyond the politics of representation?

A Witcomb

(2006), South Pacific museums : experiments in culture, Clayton, Vic., B1


Interactivity: thinking beyond

A Witcomb

(2006), pp. 353-361, Companion to museum studies, Malden, Mass., B1-1


How British is the National Trust of Australia (WA)? A case study into the power of a name

A Witcomb

(2004), pp. 840-853, Exploring the British world : identity, cultural production, institutions, Melbourne, Vic., B1-1


Re-imagining the museum: beyond the mausoleum

A Witcomb

(2003), London, England, A1-1


Children, media and the public sphere in Chinese Australia

Y Chu, S Hemelryk Donald, A Witcomb

(2003), pp. 261-274, Political communications in greater China : the construction and reflection of identity, London, England, B1-1


Is it armageddon? Some problems of discourses of change in museums

A Witcomb

(2002), pp. 158-172, Start trek and endgame : millenial politics, narratives, images : a selection of papers from the Australian and South Pacific Association for Comparative Literature Studies Conference, Fremantle Western Australia, 11-13 December 1997, Bentley, W.A., B1-1


Postmodern space and the museum-the displacement of 'public' narratives

A Witcomb

(1994), Vol. 4, pp. 239-262, Social Semiotics, Abingdon, Eng., C1-1


Funded Projects at Deakin

Australian Competitive Grants

'Place, taste and tradition'. A history of ideas about heritage in Western Australia as a foundation for change

Prof Andrea Witcomb

ARC Linkage - Projects

  • 2007: $18,962

Australian Heritage Abroad: Managing Australia's Extraterritorial War Heritage

Prof Andrea Witcomb, Prof William Logan, Prof Joan Beaumont, Dr Bart Ziino

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2016: $4,815
  • 2012: $43,069
  • 2011: $38,782
  • 2010: $63,694

Collecting Institutions, cultural diversity and the making of citizenship in Australia since the 1970s

Prof Andrea Witcomb, Dr Kylie Message, Dr Ian McShane, Prof Simon Knell, Prof Arne Amundsen

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2015: $3,397
  • 2014: $32,930
  • 2013: $17,277
  • 2012: $58,059

Collecting the West: Reimagining Western Australia from its collections

Alistair Paterson, Prof Andrea Witcomb, Alec Coles, Jane Lydon, Stephen Hopper, Jenny Gregory, Dr Shino Konishi, Jacqueline Van Gent, Dr Toby Burrows, Dr Tiffany Shellam, Jeremy Hill, Sarah Longair, Gaye Sculthorpe, Kathleen (Kate) Gregory, Damien Webb, Corioli Souter, Amy Wegerhoff, Patricia McDonald, Moya Smith, Diana Jones, Melissa Harpley

ARC Linkage - Projects

  • 2018: $66,955
  • 2017: $62,505
  • 2016: $54,679

Other Public Sector Funding

Landscaping to Manufacturing: The Wool Industry in Geelong

Prof Clare Bradford, Prof Hisham Elkadi, A/Prof Dirk De Bruyn, Prof Andrea Witcomb, Dr Emily Potter

  • 2013: $5,000

Industry and Other Funding

The provision of a history of the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre, Melbourne, as described in the proposal in Schedule A to this Agreement.

Prof Andrea Witcomb, A/Prof Michele Langfield, Dr Linda Young, Ms Pam Maclean

  • 2009: $32,212
  • 2008: $38,146


Principal Supervisor

Junjie Su

Thesis entitled: Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding in the Context of Tourism: A Case Study of Lijiang, China

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Karen Schamberger

Thesis entitled: Identity, Belonging and Cultural Diversity in Australian Museums

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Paulette Wallace

Thesis entitled: Approaching cultural landscapes in post-settler societies: ideas, policies, practices

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Ashton Sinamai

Thesis entitled: An Un-Inherited Past: Preserving the Khami World Heritage Site, Zimbabwe

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Associate Supervisor

Anne Laura Kraak

Thesis entitled: World Heritage and Human Rights in Bagan, Myanmar

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Anne Helen Kershaw

Thesis entitled: Coproduction in Museums: A study of museum work with culturally diverse communities

Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Marketing

Diane Christine Siebrandt

Thesis entitled: Military Occupation of Heritage Sites: Orientalism, Archaeology and the Iraq War

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Sally Watterson

Thesis entitled: Jinhin Mongol / True Mongolian: Mongolian museums and the construction of national identity

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Louise Fortunata Zarmati

Thesis entitled: Teaching History in Australian Museums: Pedagogy and Praxis of Museum Educators

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences