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Dr Karen Fielder

Senior Lecturer

Karen Fielder


I joined the School of Architecture in 2012 following a career in the heritage sector as a historic buildings advisor and curator. Having originally studied archaeology as an undergraduate, I went on to pursue postgraduate studies in museums and heritage at the Institute of Archaeology in London before taking up a post as a curator at the Museum of London. In this role I developed an interest in the historic built environment and how this shapes the identity and experience of the metropolis. Following further academic studies in historic conservation, I worked as a historic buildings advisor for a large local authority in the East of England before pursuing a collaborative doctoral research project with the National Trust. This research focused on a lost 17th-century country house on one of the Trust's estates, and how its history and historiography impacted on the experience of the tangible and intangible traces remaining at the site today.

I have links with a number of heritage projects around Portsmouth, and I am a member of the Fabric Advisory Committee for Portsmouth Cathedral.

Research Interests

As a heritage specialist, I am concerned with cultural-historical values in the historic built environment, and how changing values over time have influenced past and present strategies for altering and conserving historic sites. My research interests include the experiential qualities of historic buildings and places and how these might shape new approaches to the conservation and management of the historic environment. My aim is to find new methods for capturing embodied experience and everyday encounters with historic sites as elements of their character that operate alongside more traditional materials-based and empirical methods of description. I am particularly interested in how absence and loss are always present and felt at historic places, creating spatio-temporal experiences in which past, present and future coexist. This idea of theĀ  sensed persistence of absence suggests a way of reconceptualising material traces in terms of their affective capacity, leading to alternative strategies for managing the historic environment.

I am currently collaborating with colleagues on a research project with the National Trust at Mottisfont near Romsey to investigate the impact of lighting conditions on the preservation and perception of the 1930s illusionary painted interior of the Whistler Room at the historic house there. I am also developing research methods for capturing the embodied experience of historic sites, working specifically at a 16th-century manor house, Wymering Manor, near Cosham.

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