Lauren Barnes

Collecting in Context: Using a Global Histories approach to uncover and understand the histories and implications of collecting Korean art and culture by UK museums, from 1865 – 2020


  • Dr Emma Martin
  • Dr Luca Scholz

Overview of PhD

My research interrogates how, when, and why museum collections of Korean art and culture were formed in UK museums, from the viewpoint of the museum as collector. In doing so, not only do I hope to contribute to wider knowledge relating to the histories of collecting Korea, but I also aim to understand the legacies and implications of collecting Korean objects and artworks in the UK museum context.

Lauren Barnes
Lauren Barnes

The research timeframe spans the history of collecting Korea in the UK, from the first acquisition by a UK museum in 1865 to periods of contemporary collecting leading up to 2020. By applying a novel Spatial and Global Histories approach combined with GIS analysis, my research will place emphasis on analysing the role that both large and small scale socio-political and cultural factors have played in the formation of the Korean collections in UK museums, and use GIS analysis to uncover patterns of acquisition and spatial-temporal relationships.

My research connects to the wider themes of the history of collecting, digital humanities, and debates on the role of museums, and spans the disciplines of museum studies, global histories, Korean studies and human geography.


I have worked in UK museums since 2012 in a wide range of roles covering curatorial, collections management, access and engagement, and research positions. During my career I have curated multiple temporary exhibitions and been involved in the creation of two permanent galleries and a new museum. Currently, I am Lim Ai Fang Fellow at The University Gallery, Northumbria University, where I lead on research, collections management and contribute to engagement and curatorial projects.

My museum career and interest in Korean collections both began at The Oriental Museum, Durham University, where I curated and researched their Korean collection (The Rutt Gallery of Korea, 2013 - present). Whilst at the Oriental Museum, my successful grant application to the Korean Foundation in 2015 allowed me to deliver a vibrant two-week programme of 18 events relating to Korean history and culture. I lived and worked in Daejeon, South Korea for one year and I was recently invited back to The Oriental Museum to curate my own photography exhibition ‘The Hills are High’ (2018) showing my photographic work from this time. I am a committee member of the British Korean Society and continue to study the Korean language.

I have a BA in Human Geography (2008) and an MPrac in Museum Practice (2012), both from Newcastle University.

Professional Memberships

  • British Korean Society (Committee Member)
  • Museum Association
  • British Association for Korean Studies

Past Curatorial Projects


  • The Hills are High - Personal photography exhibition, Oriental Museum, Durham University (Curator, Researcher, Artist)


  • No Stigma Attached, Oriental Museum, Durham University (Organiser of community-led exhibition)
  • Permanent Gallery: The Roberts Gallery of South Asia, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Oriental Museum, Durham University (Community Access Officer, Gallery research and development)
  • The Enlightened One: Printed Buddhist Art, Oriental Museum, Durham University (Research and development)


  • Embracing the Divine: exploring Hindu Faith, Devotion and Celebration, The Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough (Curator)
  • Re-interpreting the Korean Moon Jar, Oriental Museum, Durham University in partnership with Hyosun Kim, (Curator)
  • From the Mountains to the Sea, Oriental Museum, Durham University (Curator)


  • White on White, Oriental Museum, Durham University in partnership with Gallery LVS, South Korea (Curator)
  • Permanent Gallery: Rutt Gallery of Korea, Oriental Museum, Durham University (Curator)