Kirsty Robertson


Dr. Kirsty Robertson, Associate Professor (Contemporary Art and Museum and Curatorial Studies)

Postdoc, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2007

Ph.D., Queen’s University, Visual and Material Culture, 2006
M.A., Queen’s University, 2001
B.A., Honours, Bishop’s University, 1998



Kirsty Robertson runs the undergraduate Museum and Curatorial Studies major in the Department of Visual Arts. Her pedagogy involves curating large-scale speculative and experimental exhibitions with students, work that she has extended into independent curatorial projects such as Secret Stash (McIntosh Gallery, 2013). Her research focuses on museums, visual culture, contemporary art, environment, and activism, clustered in a number of different projects.


Current Projects

Kirsty Robertson has published widely on activism, visual culture, and museums, culminating in her book Tear Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Museums, Culture (MQUP, 2019). Tear Gas Epiphanies traces the as-yet-untold story of political action at museums in Canada from the early twentieth century to the present. The book looks at how museums do or do not archive protest ephemera, examining a range of responses to actions taking place at their thresholds, from active encouragement to belligerent dismissal. Drawing together extensive primary-source research and analysis, Robertson questions widespread perceptions of museums, strongly arguing for a reconsideration of their role in contemporary society that takes into account political conflict and protest as key ingredients in museum life.


Robertson’s work on critical museum studies has expanded into a new project focused on small and micro- collections that work against traditional museum formats. Her SSHRC-funded project Pop Ups, Alternatives, Artist Museums and Micromuseums: Exploring the Edges of Museology asks how those who feel blocked or hindered by establishment museums use the form of the museum against itself to create oppositional or critical spaces. Is it possible that small size can, in fact, enliven rather than neutralize or deaden cultural materials? As a part of this project, Robertson runs The Bookcase Micromuseum and Library out of her office.


Since 2008, Robertson has additionally researched textiles, the textile industry, and fibre-based arts. She has written on textiles and technology, on craftivism, and is currently looking closely at petrotextiles (that is, textiles that are made from oil and that disintegrate into plastic microfilaments). As a part of this research, she is a founding member of the Synthetic Collective, a group of artists, scientists and cultural researchers working on plastics pollution in the Great Lakes Region, and is working on a project with Eugenia Kisin (NYU) titled A Museum for Future Fossils.


Selected publications

Kirsty Robertson. Tear-Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Museums, Culture, McGill-Queen’s University Press, accepted, forthcoming Spring 2019. 

Lynda Jessup, Erin Morton, Kirsty Robertson, eds. Negotiations in a Vacant Lot: Studying the Visual in Canada, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014. 312 pages.

Laura Murray, Tina Piper, Kirsty Robertson (tri-authors). Putting Intellectual Property in its Place. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 224 pages.

Kirsty Robertson and Keri Cronin, eds. Imagining Resistance: Visual Culture and Activism in Canada. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2011. 294 pages.

Kirsty Robertson with Lisa Vinebaum. Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture [special issue: Crafting Community: Textiles, Publics, Performance and Participation]. 14.1 London: Berg Press, Summer 2016.

Synthetic Collective (Sara Lynn Belontz, et. al.). “Embracing an Interdisciplinary Approach to Plastics Pollution Awareness and Action,” submitted to Ambio in June 2018, accepted.


Kirsty Robertson with Helen Gregory. “No Small Matter? Micromuseums as Critical Institutions,” RACAR (special issue: Critical Curating) 43.2 (2018).

Lianne McTavish with Susan Ashley, Heather Igloliorte, Kirsty Robertson, and Andrea Terry. “Critical Museum Theory/Museum Studies in Canada: A Dialogue,” Acadiensis 46.2 (2017), pp. 223-41.

Kirsty Robertson and Lisa Vinebaum. “Crafting Community.” Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture 14.1 (2016), pp. 2-13.

Kirsty Robertson. “Oil Futures/Petrotextiles” In Petrocultures. Sheena Wilson and Imre Szeman, eds. McGill-Queen’s University Press. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017, pp. 242-63.

Kirsty Robertson. “Textiles.” In Fueling Culture: Politics, History, Energy. Imre Szeman, Jennifer Wenzel and Patricia Yaeger, eds. Fordham University Press, 2016, pp. 353-56.

Kirsty Robertson. “Shopping Cartographies.” In The Vancouver Carts: Photographs by Kelly Wood. James Patten, ed. London: Black Dog Publishers, 2016.

Kirsty Robertson. “Quilts for the Twenty-First Century: Activism in the Expanded Field of Quilting” In Handbook of Textiles, eds. Janis Jefferies, Hazel Clark and Diana Wood Conroy. London: Bloomsbury Press, 2016, pp. 197-210.

 Kirsty Robertson. “Plastiglomerate,” e-flux journal 78 (December 2016): 

Kirsty Robertson. “The History of Contemporary Survival: Tributes and Tributaries at the AGO.” In Topia 37 (Spring 2017).



Graduate Supervision

Ahlia Moussa, “Point of Origin: The Global Posturing of Recent Vancouver Art and Artists,” MA 

Emma Arenson (co-supervision with Bridget Elliot), “Bodily Difference: The Absent/Present Body as Signifier of Disability,” MA (in progress)

Jonathan Sarma, “Art and Artificiality: The Re/De(Con)struction of ‘Natural’ Gender in 1990s Visual Culture,” MA (completed 2010).

Andrea Skelly, “Containers of Electronic Art: Displaying Electronic Art in ‘White Cube’ and Experimental Spaces,” MA (completed 2009)

Recent Courses

VAH3392: Tangled and Warped: Textiles and Activism
VAH3385: Museum Studies
VAH276: Canadian Art (Reframing Canada)
VAH391: Art is a Hammer: Contemporary Art, Protest, Globalization
VAH 477: After/Images: Gender, Technology and Art 1900-1945
VAH9768:  Curating Contemporary Trends
VAH5595:  Economizing Culture: Globalization, Art and the Creative Industries