Dr Hanna Smyth joins 2022 Ashmolean ‘Talking Memory’ Programme

two stone columns meet to form a curved archway with geometrical cut-out design. The view through the archway is of a white stone path bordered by a garden, with a domed stone circular structure at the other end.

Neuve Chapelle memorial, France. ©Hanna Smyth

Dr Hanna Smyth, who has worked on the National Trust Partnership team since 2019, will be joining the Ashmolean Museum as a Public Engagement with Research (PER) Associate from January-June 2022 as part of the museum’s Talking Memory programme.


Five early-career researchers from across the University of Oxford have been selected to join Talking Memory, a programme designed to enrich their research and public engagement skills in the collections and galleries of the Ashmolean Museum while developing wellness events for older adults.


“In partnership with the Ashmolean University Engagement Programme, the project will offer participants hands-on training in object-focused research and engagement; the opportunity for cross-disciplinary investigation of theories of memory and current work on museums as spaces of social benefit; and the chance to develop a multi-faceted public event. Associates will attend a series of workshops with Dr Jim Harris and the Ashmolean Learning Team where they will learn how to work with material artefacts from the Museum’s collections, and how to translate their research into accessible presentations. The workshops also include discussions of selected readings, focused on wider questions of memory across time and place, on the capacity of objects to display and evoke memory, and the therapeutic role museums can play in the lives of older visitors. The project will culminate in half-day events with a group of older adults. Each Associate will present a gallery talk on a single object and examine the ways it activates and embodies memory.”


Hanna joins Talking Memory with multidisciplinary research experience on memory and material culture, with a specialisation in how these intersect with war, grief, death, and commemoration. In 2019 she completed a DPhil Global & Imperial History with her thesis “The material culture of remembrance and identity: South Africa, India, Canada & Australia's Imperial War Graves Commission sites on the First World War’s Western Front”; her MA Museums Studies research examined First World War museum interpretation during the centenary; and her BA Classical Archaeology specialised in war commemoration in classical antiquity. She is currently the early-career member of the International Society of First World War Studies’ Board of Directors, and on the executive committee of War Through Other Stuff, a public-facing academic & heritage collaboration for events and skills training that challenge traditional understandings of military history. In 2017-18 she was lead researcher on the HLF-funded public engagement project Global War Graves Leicester, uncovering international connections of First World War graves in a Leicester cemetery. She has worked and volunteered in museums for eight years, including collections, exhibitions, and research roles with Richmond Museum (Canada), Palace Green Library (Durham), and the Museum of Oxford.


Her contributions to Talking Memory will be further informed by her current and upcoming University of Oxford staff roles. Having spent three years supporting Oxford’s National Trust Partnership, alongside three years working on the university’s central Public Engagement with Research team, in January 2022 she joins the public engagement team of Oxford’s Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, whose scientific research on memory processes will also inform her contributions to Talking Memory.

Hanna Smyth is the National Trust Partnership Support Officer on the Heritage Partnerships Team, Humanities Division.

Find out more about the National Trust Partnership here.

Find out more about the University of Oxford Heritage Programme here.