Staff profile - Andrea Witcomb

Staff image

Prof Andrea Witcomb

Position: Professor Of Cultural Heritage And Museum Studies
role description
Faculty or Division: Faculty of Arts and Education
Department: SHSS Arts & Ed
Campus: Melbourne Burwood Campus
Phone: +61 3 925 17232 +61 3 925 17232



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 and took up her present appointment as an Associate Professor at Deakin in late 2006. She is the author of Re-Imagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum (Routledge, 2003) and with Chris Healy, the co-editor of South Pacific Museums: An Experiment in Culture (Monash e-press, 2006). Her latest book, co-written with Dr Kate Gregory is From the Barracks to the Burrup: The National Trust in Western Australia (University of NSW Press, 2010).


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


Museums Australia
International Cultural Studies Association

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.


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.

Subjects and units currently teaching

Andrea teaches AIM 727 (Exhibitions), AIM 712 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

Related Links


Research projects

Current research projects include:
1) The History of the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre (JHMRC), with Dr Steven Cooke and Dr Donna Frieze.

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 Dr Kylie Message from the ANU) that is part of a series of international handbooks of msueum 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.

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 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 is for attempts 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), the art of installation  (Witcomb and Gregory 2007), through objects  (2009, 2013).

Research page



Andrea's key publications include:

Witcomb, A. 2003. Reimagining the museum: Beyond the Mausoleum, Routledge, London.

Witcomb, A and Kate Gregory, (2010).  From the Barracks to the Burrup: The National Trust in Western Australia, UNSW Press, Sydney. (Shortlisted for the 2010 WA Premier’s History Award)

Witcomb, A. (2013) “Using immersive and interactive approaches to interpreting traumatic experiences for tourists: potentials and limitations” in Russell Staiff, Robyn Bushell and Steve Watson, Heritage and Tourism: Place, encounters, engagement, Routledge, London.

Witcomb, A. (2013) “Testimony, memory and art at the Jewish Holocaust Centre Melbourne” in Viv Golding and Wayne Modest (eds.) Collaborative Museums: Communities, Curators, Collection, Berg, London.

Logan, W. and Witcomb. A. (2013).  “Messages from Long Tan, Vietnam: Memorialisation, Reconciliation and Historical Justice” in Critical Asian Studies, vol. 45 (2), 2013.

Witcomb, A.  (2012) “On memory, affect and atonement: The Long Tan Memorial Cross(es)”, Historic Environment. Vol. 24 (3), pp. 34-42.

Witcomb, A. (2010). “Remembering the dead by affecting the living: the case of a miniature model of Treblinka” in Dudley, S. Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretations, Routledge, London/New York, pp. 39-52.

Witcomb, A. (2007). “The materiality of virtual technologies: A new approach to thinking about the impact of multimedia in museums” in Fiona Cameron and Sarah Kenderdine, Digital Cultural Heritage: A critical discourse, MIT Press, Massachussets, pp.35-48.

Gregory, K. and Andrea Witcomb (2007). “Beyond nostalgia: the role of affect in generating historical understanding at heritage sites” in Simon J. Knell, Suzanne MacLeod and Sheila Watson (eds.) Museum Revolutions: How museums change and are changed, Routledge, London.

Witcomb, A. (2006). “Interactivity: Thinking beyond” in Sharon MacDonald (ed.) Companion to Museum Studies, Blackwell, London.

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