President's Doctoral Scholar Award

Katherine Crouch

Research Degree: PhD Archaeology

Thesis Title: The role of human remains and mortuary archaeology in British contemporary culture.

Scope of your research

As the ‘past personified’, human remains are perhaps the defining image of archaeology, but in recent years, the excavation, study and display of human remains has become a matter of contentious debate due to a unique ethical and legislative context. I am interested in exploring the differential attitudes towards the dead as encountered through archaeology, considering both public and professional perspectives, together with the intersection of opinion held by heritage stakeholders. In this way, my research will argue that the archaeological investigation of human remains is a vital cultural practice that creates a space in which to reflect upon our relationship with mortality. Furthermore, by analysing the broader cultural focus on death and the human body in society, this research will generate an understanding of issues of death and dying in contemporary Britain and advocate ways in which the archaeological profession can engage with, contribute to and mediate our perceptions and expectations of mortality.

Personal biography

I can pinpoint the very moment I became interested in archaeology to a visit as a small child with my parents to Fishbourne Roman Palace, in Sussex, where I saw my first real skeleton! In that moment, I was hooked on archaeology and what it can reveal about the lives of past people and as such, I decided to pursue this interest as an undergraduate, consolidating my degree with a MA in Museum Studies, specialising in Archaeological Curatorship. Since 2006, I have worked and volunteered in various museums and cultural venues across the UK and now find myself in the extremely fortunate position of being able to spend the next three years pursuing a fascinating research project.

Academic background

  • MA Museum Studies, The University of Leicester, 2008 - 2009
  • BA (Hons) Art and Archaeology of the Ancient World, The University of Manchester, 2003 – 2006

Academic achievements / prizes

  • AHRC Doctoral Award, The University of Manchester, 2012 - 2015
  • AHRC Professional Preparation Masters Award, The University of Leicester, 2008 – 2009

Your research interests

  • Archaeology of death and burial
  • Human remains and ethics
  • Death studies
  • Museology
  • ‘Dark’ tourism
  • Popular culture and archaeology


1) Why did you choose to do your research at the University of Manchester?

I applied to study at Manchester because of the great research reputation held by the University, the quality of the archaeology department, the expertise of my supervisor and the fabulous resources on offer, such as the Manchester Museum. Furthermore, I studied here as an undergraduate and think the city is a fabulous place to be a student and I am delighted to be back.

2) How do you feel about being selected as one of the President’s Doctoral Scholars?

The award scheme illustrates the value the university places on its students and in creating the researchers of tomorrow and I feel incredibly honoured to have been selected as part of the first cohort. Even now, I am still quite overwhelmed, as PhD study without scholarship funding would not have been a viable option for me and so I am grateful to the university for this amazing opportunity.

3) What are your career aspirations after completing your PhD?

Following on from my PhD, I hope to embark on an academic career within the fields of archaeology and museology. Competition for academic posts is fierce, but I feel that the opportunities and skills training provided through the PDS award scheme put me in a stronger position to pursue and achieve this ambition.

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