Ceramics Research Centre – UK

Past PhD Researcher: Laura Breen


Laura Breen’s PhD Re-modelling Clay: Ceramic Practice and the Museum in Britain (1970-2014) was part of the Ceramics in the Expanded Field project. She also has a BA in History of Art and Design (first class) from Manchester Metropolitan University and an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies from The University of Manchester. This is complemented by seven years’ experience in the museum sector.

Laura has worked with a wide range of museum collections, from fine and decorative arts to local history. This has helped her to develop a broad knowledge base and an open-minded approach to curation. She worked for Bolton Museum and Archive Service for two years, playing a leading role in the delivery of the large-scale touring exhibition ‘At The Edge: British Art 1950-2000’. Laura also spent the past two years working on a project titled ‘Opening Up Decorative Arts’ at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, re-displaying the decorative arts galleries and working with contemporary artists to interpret the collections in creative ways.


Laura is interested in the relationship between museum display, public perception and artistic practice. Her MA thesis addressed the display of musical instrument collections for different audiences. She explored taxonomic display, thematic and decorative arts approaches and the tension between kinaesthetic learning and preservation within the museum environment. She built on this research during her professional career, collaborating with arts practitioners to illuminate existing collections and build new opportunities for engagement.

Laura’s PhD research explored how the dialogue between museological and contemporary ceramic practice shaped the discourse around ceramics since 1970. Her thesis covered the re-definition of ceramics through medium-specific exhibitions, contemporary ceramicists’ relationship with museum collections, their responses to the museum as space and place, the communication and location of ceramic process within the museum and contemporary ceramicists’ relationship with the museum audience. Her findings provided the contextual background for the work of the three co-investigators on the Behind the Scenes at the Museum: Ceramics in the Expanded Field project.


  • ‘Productive friction: Ceramic practice and the museum since 1970,’ in Contemporary Clay and Museum Culture, ed. Christie Brown, Julian Stair and Clare Twomey (London: Taylor and Francis: 2016).
  • ‘Redefining ceramics through exhibitionary practice,’ in The Ceramics Reader, ed. Kevin Petrie and Andrew Livingstone (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017).
  • ‘Redefining ceramics through exhibitionary practice (1970 – 2009),’ Journal of Art Historiography 11 (2014).
  • ‘Ceramic Discourse and the Museum’, National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Journal, vol. 34, 2013.
  • ‘Myth Making (Morling and the Hoard)’ Ceramic Review, vol. 261, May/Jun 2013.


  • ‘Showing Ceramics.’ Reflecting on Fragile? National Museum, Wales, Cardiff, 2015.
  • ‘Productive Friction: Ceramic Practice and the Museum.’ Ceramics in the Expanded Field. University of Westminster, 2014.
  • ‘Redefining Ceramics through Exhibitionary Practice.’ Negotiating Boundaries: The Plural Fields of Art History. Barber Institute, University of Birmingham, 2013
  • ‘Ceramic Discourse and the Museum.’ (Part of the panel ‘Ceramics in the Expanded Field – Ceramic Practice and the Museum’ with Clare Twomey and Prof. Christie Brown). 47th Annual NCECA conference, Houston, Texas, 2013.
  • ‘Curating Contemporary Ceramics in Britain’. Cultures of Curating. Museums and Galleries History Group, University of Lincoln, 2012


  • AHRC CREAM Studentship (2011-2014)
  • AHRC Professional Preparation Masters Studentship (2007)