Dr Karen Fielder
Research Associate



I am a heritage specialist with a background in museums, curatorship and the historic environment.  I am the programme leader for the MSc in Building Conservation and the MSc in Timber Building Conservation at the Weald and Downland Living Museum in Chichester, which are validated by the University of York.

My journey into heritage and conservation began at the University of Sheffield with a BA in Archaeology and Prehistory, awarded in 1986, followed by an MA in Museum Studies at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. There followed a career in archives and museums, including eight years as a social history curator for the Museum of London where I co-curated the award-winning World City gallery. Working in a rapidly-transforming metropolis where the role of heritage was a focus of debate inspired an interest in the historic built environment and its conservation. In 2004-5 I studied for a postgraduate diploma in Historic Conservation at Oxford Brookes University. This led me to the National Trust and to the role of historic building advisor for Essex County Council, where I had particular responsibility for documenting the special character of conservation areas.

I completed doctoral studies with the University of Southampton in 2012, working on an AHRC-funded collaborate doctoral studentship project with the National Trust researching Coleshill House, a 17th-century classical country house which once stood on the Coleshill estate in Oxfordshire. The house was demolished in 1953 shortly before the National Trust acquired the estate, but the poetics of the empty site are compelling and my research unintentionally developed a focus around the affective qualities of historic places.

I joined the School of Architecture at the University of Portsmouth as lecturer in 2012, in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries. My main responsibility was to co-ordinate the MSc in Historic Building Conservation, as well as contributing to a range of units across the School including design studios and history units. Other roles included Departmental Research Degrees Co-ordinator and leader of the Cultural Heritage Research Group. In July 2018 I joined the Weald and Downland Living Museum, whilst continuing to contribute to some of the programmes at Portsmouth.


Selected publications

Fielder, K. and Mitchell, B. ‘Thresholds of the Future’, in Brooker, G., Harriss, H. and Walker, K., Interior Futures. San Francisco: Crucible Press. (forthcoming)

Mitchell, B. and Fielder, K. (2018) ‘Matter of the Manor’, Journal of Interior Design, 43:1, p. 53-63

Bailey, G. and Fielder, K. (2017) A time and a place: reconciling architectural pedagogy and urban conservation in historic Sarajevo. Proceedings of the Importance of Place 4th International Conference, Bosnia & Herzogovina Centre for Conservation of Architectural Heritage

Fielder, K. (2015) Review: Place-making for the Imagination: Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill, by Marion Harney, in Interiors: Design/Architecture/Culture. 5, 3, p. 391-393

Fielder, K. (2015) ‘’X’ Marks the Spot: Narratives of a Lost Country House’, in Stobart, J. and Hann, A. (eds), The Country House: Material Culture and Consumption, Swindon: Historic England

Fielder, K. (2012) ‘Lord Burlington and the Leaning Stacks of Coleshill House’, National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual, in association with Apollo, pp. 56-59

Fielder, K. (2010) ‘Lost Splendour’, National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual, in association with Apollo, pp. 62-66



My research explores the edges of the conservation discipline through interdisciplinary collaborations, and I have worked with architects, interior designers, historians and creative practitioners. Recently I have been collaborating with an interior designer and art practitioner to explore creative approaches to documenting and representing affect at historic sites, examined through the theoretical lens of New Materialism. We are focusing our investigation on a 16th-century timber-framed manor house in Portsmouth which is as yet unrestored and is cared for by a community preservation trust. Our research concentrates on ordinary and everyday encounters with the manor, and on the gestures of those who care for it through different modes of practice and performance. Unpicking the notion of gesture is providing a new avenue for exploring human/non-human, material/immaterial interactions with historic places, and for how these gestures express feelings of care outside of the professional norms that define conservation practice.


External activities


I am a member of the Fabric Advisory Committee for Portsmouth Cathedral.

Member of Conservation Course Directors Forum.


Contact details

Dr Karen Fielder
Research Associate