Louise Purbrick is an art historian trying to ‘think with’ anthropology. Her research, devoted to understanding materiality and visuality, focuses upon: sites of conflict and imprisonment, the spaces of industrial exploitation and exhibition, the art of political struggle and the attachments to domestic possessions in everyday life.
Louise often works in collaboration with activists, archaeologists, artists, community groups and photographers. Most recently, she was part of the AHRC funded Traces of Nitrate: Mining History and Photography between Britain and Chile project.
Dr Louise Purbrick is a Principal Lecturer in the History of Art and Design at the University of Brighton.
Louise Purbrick’s current research examines how the past remains present in its material forms. She has a longstanding interest in the Long Kesh/Maze prison site, the now empty ‘icon’ of ‘The Troubles’ located ten miles south of Belfast, and has spent many years documenting the transformations of its cell units, the H Blocks. Her recent work as part of the Traces of Nitrate project, an interpretation of the abandoned architecture of mining in Atacama Desert in northern Chile and the legacies of the nitrate trade in Britain, is in publication.
Louise completed her D.Phil in Art History at the University of Sussex in 1993 and has since published much of her study of the industrial and material culture of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in articles and edited collections. Her exploration of the power of objects began with the fascination for the Crystal Palace but has since extended to museum practices and the material culture of everyday life. In The Wedding Present (2007, 2014), a contemporary analysis of the gift, she detailed the acts of preservation that constitute domestic domains and argued that consumption was not an adequate framework through which to view everyday life. Broadly, then, Louise is concerned with the entanglements between people and things, with human and material relationships.
Alongside research and writing, Louise works as a curator and maker. She is a member of the Re-making Picasso’s Guernica Collective and has worked with Healing Through Remembering on exhibition projects. In 2010, Brighton Museum and Art Galleries accessioned the collection from which she curated Rattling the Cage (2009), a community archive of documents, textiles, photography and film used in a campaign to free a Guantánamo detainee. Most recently, she worked with the Community University Partnership Programme (CUPP) on Art, Refuge and Resistance, an exhibition of documents and designs about the current conditions of refugees.
Louise Purbrick is interested in developing postgraduate research in the following areas: the materiality of conflict or that of everyday life, photography as material form art and political activism, exhibition and museum practices.
This research project examines the material transformations instigation by nineteenth century nitrate mining in the Atacama Desert, northern Chile.
Co-authored with John Schofield, this article explores the obvious and obscured meanings of an urban site of conflict.
An analysis of the power of domestic possessions in everyday life between 1945 and today
Purbrick, Louise (2017) Nitrate ruins: the photography of mining in the Atacama Desert, Chile Journal Of Latin American Cultural Studies. ISSN 1356-9325
Purbrick, Louise (2016) The raw materials of world history: re-visiting the Great Exhibition’s objects World History Connected, 13 (3). ISSN 1931-8642
Purbrick, Louise (2015) Curating/Creating, art/activism: the place of collective participation Discover Society, 21.
Purbrick, Louise (2014) Nitrate Traffic In: Ribas, Xavier, ed. Nitrate. Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona, pp. 29-38. ISBN 9788492505661
Purbrick, Louise (2014) Cloth, gender, politics: the Armagh Handkerchief, 1976 Clio: Historie, Femmes Et Societes, 40. pp. 115-135. ISSN 1777-5299
Purbrick, Louise (2012) Trading the past: material culture of Long Kesh/Maze, Northern Ireland Journal of War and Culture Studies, 6 (1). p. 58. ISSN 1752-6272
Purbrick, Louise (2011) The Last Murals of Long Kesh: Fragments of Political Imprisonment at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland In: Myers, Adrian and Moshenska, Gabriel, eds. Archaeologies of Internment. One World Archaeology . Springer, New York, pp. 263-284. ISBN 9781441996657
Purbrick, Louise (2011) Museums and the embodiment of human rights Museum and Society, 9 (3). pp. 166-189. ISSN 1479-8360
Purbrick, Louise and Schofield, John (2009) Brixton: landscape of a riot Landscapes, 10 (1). pp. 1-20. ISSN 1466-2035
Purbrick, Louise (2008) Defining nation: Ireland at the Great Exhibition of 1851 In: Jeffrey, Auerbach and Peter, Hoffenberg, eds. Britain, the Empire, and the world at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Ashgate, Aldershot, pp. 47-76. ISBN 9780754662419
Purbrick, Louise, Aulich, Jim and Dawson, Graham (2007) Contested Spaces: Sites, Representations and Histories of Conflict [Edited Collections]
Purbrick, Louise (2007) The Wedding Present: Domestic Life Beyond Consumption Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-4472-3
Schofield, John, Klausmeier, Axel and Purbrick, Louise (2006) Re-mapping the Field: New Approaches in Conflict Archaeology [Edited Collections]
Purbrick, Louise (2004) The Architecture of Containment In: The Maze. Granta, pp. 91-110. ISBN 1862076847
Purbrick, Louise (2003) Wedding presents: marriage gifts and the limits of consumption, Britain, 1945-2000 Journal of design history, 16 (3). pp. 215-227. ISSN 1741-7279
Purbrick, Louise (2001) The Great Exhibition of 1851 [Edited Collections]
Purbrick, Louise The last murals of Long Kesh: fragments of political imprisonment at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland In: Moshenska, Gabriel and Myers, Adrian, eds. Archaeologies of Internment. One World Archaeology . Springer, pp. 263-285. ISBN 9781441996657