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A Woman's Work: Photographic Histories of North-East England Through the Lens of Daisy Edis and the J.R. Edis Studio


  • Durham University
  • Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

A row of buildings in Beamish museum

This project uses the work of Daisy Edis (1888-1964) and the J.R. Edis Studio to interrogate histories of photography in Durham, a cathedral, university, and mining town in Northeast England. Working in partnership with Beamish, a ‘living museum’ of working-class history, the project centres photography as a site of identity formation for photographers, subjects, and viewers alike – and as crucial to both past and present notions of ‘history’ itself. It draws on archives related to the Edis Studio at Beamish and Durham University, as well as considering the studio’s afterlife as a working reconstruction in the 1900 Town at Beamish, a popular attraction where visitors can don Edwardian-style costumes and pose for portraits that evoke the era.

A Woman’s Work bridges historical research and contemporary heritage practice to examine the role played by the Edis Studio in Durham’s ‘town and gown’ community over its 70-year history. Given the centrality of empire to Durham’s knowledge and industrial economies, how might visually ‘banal’ photographs, which were the studio’s core business (such as college portraits and cathedral views), be understood within the imperial context? How typical or atypical was Daisy Edis’s own career, as a woman photographer and studio owner? What opportunities for public engagement does the Edis archive at Beamish present, in line with the museum’s goal of reflecting the diversity of working-class life in Northeast England? And how might insights from this project inform the wider museum sector’s approach to historic photograph collections?

This project will run as a collaboration between Durham University’s History Department and Beamish Museum. It will offer a unique opportunity for the PhD student to learn how museums develop interpretation and engagement activities, and to gain direct experience of research impact and knowledge transfer.

The supervisors for the project are Prof. Christina Riggs and Prof. Julie-Marie Strange at Durham University and Rosie Nichols and Dan Hudachek at Beamish Museum.