Elee Kirk

Children, Nature, Museums

Author Archive



November 2018



Elee Kirk: Snapshots of a Life in Museums

Written by , Posted in Uncategorized

The journal Museum & Society has just published a special issue in memory of Elee. The editors — Elee’s good friends Gudrun Whitehead, Julia Petrov and Helen Saunderson — asked me to write a contribution. I thought for a while about something more academic, but in the end settled for a personal introductory piece. I thought I would share my piece here on Elee’s blog. You can read the full journal at the following link: Museum&Society Vol 16, no. 3 (2018).


There is a tuna skeleton in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. It is beautifully displayed in a wood and glass case. Its jaws gape, and whenever I see it, I am reminded of quite how big tuna are.

But there is something else about the skeleton that is strange and wonderful. Because if you stand in front of it, and if you crouch down (you need to crouch!), when you look into the fish’s mouth, you can see all the way to its tail.

There is something topsy-turvy, something both fascinating and funny, about looking into the mouth of a fish and seeing its tail.

It was Elee Kirk-my long-time partner, collaborator and friend-who first introduced me to the topsy-turvy tuna. Elee did her doctoral research in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. She knew the museum intimately. She worked there with young children aged four and five, giving them cameras, asking them to photograph exhibits. When the children had finished scooting round the museum taking snapshots, Elee interviewed them about the images they had taken. Like many of the best pieces of research, it was deceptively simple. And it was amazingly fruitful. (more…)



July 2018



Snapshots of Museum Experience Now Published.

Written by , Posted in Research

Snapshots of Museum Experience (Routledge, 2018)

I’m delighted to announce that Elee’s “Snapshots of Museum Experience: Understanding Child Visitors Through Photography” has now been published by Routledge. I’ve not yet received the author copies, but I’m looking forward to seeing the book in real life.

Elee’s book is available initially in (prohibitively costly) hardback and ebook formats, so if you want a copy, it might be better to get in touch with your local library.  There will also be a cheaper paperback edition coming out next year. And it is now listed on Google Books, so you can read some of the content over there as well.

Finishing Elee’s book has been something of a labour of love. It has taken a while, but I hope that the book in its final form is something of which she would have been proud.



March 2018



Snapshots of Museum Experience

Written by , Posted in Book, Children, Photography

Elee had planned to turn her thesis into a book. She got as far as sketching an outline for the final book before she became too ill to continue. Since Elee’s death, I have been working on refashioning and reworking the thesis, and I’m delighted to now be able to announce that Elee’s Snapshots of Museum Experience: Understanding Child Visitors Through Photography is due out from Routledge in 2018. The book combines museum studies and early childhood studies, mapping the experience of child visitors to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History through their photography and through interviews. The whole thing is set against a background of a broadly Deweyan approach to education and to experience.

I took up the task of reworking the book according to a plan that Elee and I together agreed one afternoon in the May of 2016 in our favourite coffee shop, just a few weeks before her death. Elee had always hoped that the book might be a way of disseminating her research to museum educators and to other scholars. The hardback edition—due out some time around August—will be rather pricey, but hopefully there will be paperback and ebook editions as well that cut the cost significantly.

I may continue to occasionally post about Elee’s work here, so do stay posted. And do by all means get in touch if you want to know more about any of her work, or just want to say hello.

Will Buckingham