School for the Creative and Cultural Industries


Creative journeys with... Anna Maguire

26 February 2024

We speak with Anna Maguire, Co-Lead of the UCL MA in Public History. Anna discusses how an affinity for research, storytelling and public engagement has shaped her practice, her proudest achievement, and exciting future projects.

Photo of Anna Maguire smiling

What is your role and what does it involve?

I'm a UCL Lecturer in Public History and Co-Convenor of the MA in Public History at UCL East. Public history is how we work with public audiences to create and share historical knowledge and understanding, including museums and archives, documentaries, TV and radio, and digital engagement. I support all of our MA teaching and learning activities, from the core module to the student exhibition. I’m also involved in lots of engagement-related activities at UCL East, including with the Memory Workshop (and Bike!).

As a member of the School of History, I spend time in Bloomsbury with our undergraduates, including running our Living at Home student network. I’m currently researching and writing about the history of sanctuary for refugees in twentieth century Britain and I’m a member of the editorial collective for RefugeeHistory.Org

Tell us about the journey that led you to where you are now

During my undergraduate degree in history, my parents joked I should be doing a joint honours in theatre because I spent all my free time putting on plays! Though I eventually chose academia over acting, my affinity for creative practice and storytelling has really shaped what I do. Part of the reason I applied for a Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) was the combination of historical research and public history practice that it offered.

I did my CDA at KCL and the Imperial War Museum during the First World War centenary, which gave me my first taste of community collaboration, exhibition making and digital public history. I then worked as a freelance researcher and a curatorial assistant. I did a teaching fellowship at KCL and a post-doc at QMUL before arriving at UCL.  

What career achievement are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of the MA in Public History, the work our students produce and how we’ve collaborated within and beyond UCL East. 

What project or initiative are you most looking forward to?

Over the next few months, I am really excited to work with our brilliant Public History cohort on their final projects and get the second public history showcase exhibited in the Urban Room. And I’m about to start a collaborative project with Creating Ground about local refugee policy and historical solidarities! 

What are you reading, watching and listening to?

Reading: I’ve just finished Angie Kim’s Happiness Falls.

Watching: the new adaptation of One Day.  

Listening: I love a podcast and am currently bingeing Normal Gossip. 

What is your favourite museum, gallery or exhibition at the moment? 

I’m interested in entanglement as a concept for understanding legacies of colonialism and migration so the next exhibition on my list is Entangled Pasts at the Royal Academy.

If you had one piece of advice for people who want to pursue a similar career path, what would it be?

I heard Ncuti Gatwa give this advice on a podcast: face your own front. There’s lots of ways of doing work in this sector so don’t compare yourself to others, it’s the thief of joy!

Find out more about the UCL MA in Public history.