Support for your dissertation

R22–1002, SALC60090

Library for Educators
6 min readSep 21


  • Group: 175
  • Length: 50 minutes
  • Room: Lecture theatre
  • Discipline: Humanities (SALC): Art Galleries and Museums; Heritage Studies; and Arts Management, Policy and Practice
  • Level: PGT Dissertation

Session content


This session will explore the information resources and support available to dissertation students. We’ll consider how different perspectives on a literature review topic can lead us to accessing and using a wide range of find information resources, including Special Collections sources. The importance of evaluating these sources will be touched upon before signposting to the wide range of support available — in Blackboard, My Learning Essentials, and through Special Collections Teaching and Learning.

Blackboard content — please create a section in the space called ‘Library Resources’

Please set out content as in this resource:

eLearning Note: Please can the following be added in its own section. There are a couple of notes on presentation — let’s have a chat!

Case study: Amber Greenall-Heffernan, MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, 2018

Bio: Amber Greenall-Heffernan is a graduate of the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester. She currently works at the John Rylands Research Library and Institute and has previously worked at People’s History Museum, Imperial War Museum North and National Trust.

I was a student on the Art Gallery and Museum Studies MA from 2016 to 2018 and I wrote my dissertation in 2018. My dissertation title was:

Votes for Women? An analysis of museum responses to the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act

I chose this topic because I was interested in history (I did a history degree at undergraduate) and I was interested in how museums represented certain aspects of history. A lot of museums were programming their exhibitions based on anniversaries, so I wanted to explore what they were using the centenary of the RPA for and what they were saying about the history of women’s suffrage.

In my introduction, I gave a brief summary of the history of women’s suffrage for context. My literature review was slightly different because I was analysing exhibitions, but I used this section to explore what had been written about women’s suffrage, along with how this history had been commemorated.

I chose three exhibitions to focus on as my case studies and dedicated a chapter to each case study. I then used these case studies to explore themes in the literature I had read but also what I had found analysing the exhibitions.

You can see how I set out my dissertation by viewing my contents page here.

Abstract: 3
Declaration: 4
Intellectual property statement: 4
Dedication: 5
Introduction: 6
History writing and the creation of the ‘Suffragette Spirit’: 10
Commemorations of the women’s suffrage movement: 11
Chapter 1 — ‘Votes for Women’, Museum of London: 14
Representations of women’s suffrage: 14
The Suffragette Fellowship Collection: 16
The Victorian suffragists: 20
Feminist legacy: 21
Chapter 2 — ‘Lost Voices’, Quarry Bank (National Trust): 22
Suffrage at a local level: 24
Working-class history as hidden history: 27
Suffragist legacy: 31
Chapter 3 — ‘Represent! Voices 100 Years On’, People’s History Museum: 33
Race in the suffrage movement: 34
Race in museums: 36
Voices 100 Years On: 39
Conclusion: 43
Bibliography: 45

Word count: 13499

I was strategic about my case studies — I had helped curate the Lost Voices exhibition at the National Trust as part of my MA so I knew a lot about the exhibition already. I was also working at the People’s History Museum at the time, so I could spend a lot of time in the exhibition and ask curators for further info about the exhibition if needed.


  • Start as soon as possible, you don’t have as much time as you think.
  • Plan your chapters and subheadings, it makes it easier to write and more structured.
  • Make the most of your dissertation meetings with your supervisor — try to go with your ideas and themes prepared, and drafts of writing if possible. They are there to help you.
  • Write about something you are interested in — you’ll be spending a lot of time with the topic!
  • Is there anything topical you want to talk about — what are current debates surrounding your sector/industry? Try and find something new to add to the conversation.
  • Look at arts/museums publications and journals to see what current debates are, you can reference these in your literature review to give context to your dissertation.

Literature Review

I used the literature review to look at what had been written about suffrage history and how it had been commemorated, as that’s what my dissertation was going to explore for the 2018 centenary exhibitions.

You can see my list of sources and details of the exhibitions I used as case studies here.

TK — can we have this next section on its own page, linked to from the word ‘here’ in the paragraph above?

Sources used in Literature review:

Black, G. 2011. ‘Museums, Memory and History’. Cultural History, 8:3, pp. 415–427

Crane, S. 2011. The Conundrum of Ephemerality: Time, Memory and Museums in Macdonald, S. (ed). 2011. A Companion to Museum Studies. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell

White, G. 1997. ‘Museum/Memorial/Shrine: National Narrative in National Spaces’, Museum Anthropology. 21, 1, pp. 8–27

Liddington, J. and Norris, J. (eds). 1994. One Hand Tied Behind Us: The Rise of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. London: Virago

Dubriwny, T. and Poirot, K. 2017. ‘Gender and Public Memory’. Southern Communication Journal. 82, 4, pp.199–202

The Women’s Suffrage Movement: New Feminist Perspectives. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Mayhall, L. 1995. ‘Creating the Suffragette Spirit: British Feminism and Historical Imagination’. Women’s History Review, Vol, 4. №3, pp. 319–344

DiCenzo, M. 2005. ‘Justifying Their Modern Sisters: History Writing and the British Suffrage Movement’. Victorian Review, Vol. 31, №1, pp.40–61

Liddington, J. 2005. ‘Era of Commemoration: Celebrating the Suffrage Centenary’. History Workshop Journal, Vol. 59, Issue 1, pp. 194–218

Whitmarsh, A. 2001. ‘We Will Remember Them’: Memory and Commemoration in War Museums’. Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies. 7, pp.11–15.

Porter, G. 1991. ‘How are women represented in British history museums?’. Museum International, Vol. 43, Issue 3, pp.159–162

Gardner, J. and Hamilton, B. (eds). 2017. The Oxford Book of Public History, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Kean, H. 2005. ‘Public History and Popular Memory: Issues in the Commemoration of the British Militant Suffrage Campaign’, Women’s History Review, Vol. 14, No 3 and 4, pp.581–602

The exhibitions I used as case studies and referenced:

Museum of London:

Museum of London. n.d. ‘People’s City’ gallery. Available at: [accessed 19/09/2018]

Museum of London, London. Interpretation panel in the “Votes for Women” exhibition. Museum of London, 2 February 2018–6 January 2019. Visited on 7 August 2018.

Museum of London, London. Short film on display in the “Votes for Women” exhibition. Museum of London, 2 February 2018–6 January 2019. Visited on 7 August 2018.

Museum of London, London. Suffragette, Francesca Smith, 2017. Text label accompanying the object in the “Votes for Women” exhibition.

Museum of London, 2 February 2018–6 January 2019. Visited on 7 August 2018. Museum of London. 2018. ‘Votes for Women’. Available at: [accessed 19/09/2018]

National Trust:

National Trust. n.d. ‘Discover the Lost Voices of Quarry Bank’. Available at: [accessed 19/09/2018]

National Trust, Quarry Bank, Cheshire. Interpretation panel for the Emily Mottershead character in the “Lost Voices” exhibition. Quarry Bank, 3 March 2018–7 October 2018. Visited 3 March 2018.

National Trust, 2018. Lost Voices. Exhibition Guide, 3 March 2018–7 October 2018

People’s History Museum:

People’s History Museum. 2017. ‘Represent! Voices 100 Years On’. Available at: [accessed 19/09/2018]

People’s History Museum. 2018a. “If you wear my shoes then you’ll know”, Safety4Sisters, 2018. Text label accompanying the object in the “Represent! Voices 100 Years On” exhibition.

People’s HIstory Museum, 2 June 2018–3 February 2019. Visited on 3 June 2018.

People’s History Museum. 2018b. Interpretation panel Is this what a feminist looks like? in the “Represent! Voices 100 Years On” exhibition. People’s History Museum, 2 June 2018–3 February 2019. Visited on 3 June 2018.

John Rylands Research Institute and Library
Special Collections

You can explore the different subject areas that Special Collections contains on the library’s website:

The library also offers bespoke 1–2-1 dissertation sessions for postgraduate students on finding and using primary sources:

Since working at the library I’ve found that they have a lot of material relating to women’s suffrage in their archives.

The Library holds the archives of several women’s suffrage movement organisations: the Parliamentary Committee for Women’s Suffrage; the Manchester Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage; the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies; and the International Woman Suffrage Alliance.

My dissertation mentions the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, so I could have used the Special Collections to find out more about the organisation. My dissertation talks about how one of the first histories written about the suffrage movement was a book called The Cause by Ray Strachey. A copy of this book is in the Rylands Special Collections so it might have been helpful to have read this.



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