Lauren Barnes

Working Title of PhD: (Mis)Representing Korea: Collectors, Museums and their role in shaping public perceptions of the Korean Peninsula (1884 – Present)


  • Dr Emma Martin
  • Dr Ros Holmes

Overview of PhD

Lauren is interrogating how and why museum collections of Korean art and culture are formed in UK museums. In particular, she is keen to explore the ways that collectors and donors influence interpretations of Korea in museum exhibitions and galleries in the UK, and in turn, the impact that these interpretations have on public understanding and perceptions of the Korean peninsula, its history, art and culture.

Lauren Barnes
Lauren Barnes

Her PhD project will analyse and frame the acquisitions of Korean material culture within the wider geo-political and social context. Through doing so, Lauren aims to reveal the complexities of the relationship between the UK and Korea since the commencement of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1884 and understand the impact that these legacies have had on the ways that UK audiences read Korea as both a country and a culture.

Lauren’s research connects to the wider themes of the history of collecting, representation and identity formation in museum spaces, and spans the disciplines of museum studies, Korean studies and art history.


Lauren has worked in UK museums since 2012 in a wide range of roles including most recently, Senior Curator for the Faith Museum at The Auckland Project, County Durham. Prior to this, Lauren worked for The Oriental Museum, part of Durham University, in various roles researching their extensive South Asian collection, curating their permanent Korea gallery, several other exhibitions, and managing community engagement projects. Her successful grant application to the Korean Foundation in 2015 allowed her to deliver a vibrant two-week programme of 18 events relating to Korean history and culture. Lauren is interested in contemporary collecting in museums and alongside spearheading several successful acquisition proposals at both the Oriental Museum and the Auckland Project, she was successful in acquiring contemporary ceramic work at ArtFund COLLECT 2013. She was recently invited back to The Oriental Museum to curate her own photography exhibition ‘The Hills are High’ based on her time teaching and travelling in South Korea. Lauren has a BA in Human Geography and an MPrac in Museum Practice from Newcastle University.

Professional Memberships

  • Museum Association
  • British Association for Korean Studies
  • British Korean Society

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)