Alex Woodall is a Lecturer in Arts Management at Sheffield University Management School, where she teaches on the MSc in Creative and Cultural Industries. Her research is derived from extensive professional practice working in museums and art galleries, and as well as object-focussed research, she has a particular interest in how these creative and cultural industries function to support wellbeing.
For 15 years, she managed public programmes, exhibitions, learning and interpretation projects for museum and galleries, including at Museums Sheffield, Manchester Art Gallery, the Royal Armouries in Leeds, Kettle's Yard at the University of Cambridge and the Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia. She has also worked as a freelance consultant. Her work is interdisciplinary, and is often theoretically framed with concepts from philosophy, theology, anthropology and education. Alex is a professional reviewer and mentor for the Museums Association, is part of the Women Cultural Leaders Network, and is on the editorial board for 'Museum & Society'.
Alex has a creative approach to teaching, particularly shown through her imaginative approaches to object-based learning in museums and heritage sites as well as in the university setting. She is particularly interested in co-production and working with artists, as well as in sensory and emotional learning, not least through experiential ‘hands on’ encounters with things. She contributed to the significant volume edited by Helen Chatterjee and Leonie Hannan: 'Engaging the Senses: Object-Based Learning in Higher Education'.
She has taught across disciplines including Museum Studies, Education and Art History, and has extensive experience of teaching at all levels. Her approach is often enquiry-based and she is interested in adapting approaches such as P4C to teaching at postgraduate and higher levels. She received a prestigious Leicester Award from the University of Leicester for her creative approaches to object-based teaching of MA students there. She has a PGCE from the University of Cambridge.
Alex is module leader for ‘Cultural Marketing’, and teaches on ‘Managing Museums and Cultural Heritage Sites’ and ‘Managing Festivals, Events and Creative Programmes’.
Primarily interested in how people engage with material culture in museums (the encounter between a person and a thing), not least through developing collaborative creative projects with artists, Alex is also interested in how the museum workforce is supported to flourish. To that end, she initiated and is currently working with the UK Museums Association to undertake the first ever piece of research on bullying in the museums sector. In addition, she is involved in object-based research in heritage tourism sites in India, particularly in the City Palace Museum in Jaipur and in Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh, where she has collaborated with Professor Sandra Dudley (University of Leicester), Professor Manvi Seth (National Museum Institute, New Delhi) and an international team of researchers.
Alex's research methods are qualitative, often including reflexive interview, participant observation and visual methods. Her PhD is from the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester and is entitled 'Sensory Engagements with Objects in Arts Galleries: Material Interpretation and Theological Metaphor'.
Selected Recent Publications
Woodall, A. (forthcoming) ‘Delightful rummaging: artists’ responses to unloved collections’ (paper delivered at Who Cares?, November 2015) in Who Cares? Interventions in Unloved Museum Collections, Arc Press.
Woodall, A. (2018) ‘On Object Dialogue Boxes: silence, empathy and unknowing’ (paper delivered at AHRC Silence, Memory and Empathy Conference, July 2013) in Intersections of Silence and Memory (Special Volume) International Journal of Heritage Studies.
Woodall, A. (2016) ”A storehouse of unimagined treasures’: York Art Gallery and the Centre of Ceramic Art’ in Museum Worlds, Bergahn Journals.
Woodall, A. (2015) ‘Object Dialogue Boxes and Unknowing’ in MuseumsEtc. Interpreting the Art Museum: A Collection of Essays, pp.366-377.
Woodall, A. (2015) ‘Rummaging as a strategy for creative thinking and imaginative engagement in Higher Education’ in eds. Chatterjee, H. & Hannan, L. Engaging the Senses: Object-Based Learning in Higher Education (Ashgate, Surrey), pp.133-155.
Woodall, A. (2015) ‘Body, Mind, Spirit: An Interpretive Strategy for Children in Hospital Schools’ in Museological Review 15, pp.33-44.