Photo of Dr Jen Grove

Dr Jen Grove

Public engagement

I am interested in the emerging category of ‘Engaged Research’ and exploring how public engagement with research can make a meaningful impact on communities outside the academy, and also inform my own research practices in order that my work can be of further relevance for today's society.

Museum Outreach and Sex Education
Exhibition curation and consultancy
Other object and archive-based engagement
Presentations outside the academy

Museum Outreach and Sex Education

Since 2009 I have worked on the Sex and History Project, an award-winning and innovative approach to improving young people’s well-being and sexual health, directed by Professors Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands. It uses objects from past cultures as a new and innovative way to discuss sex and relationships. Learning about what people from across time and place have thought about desire, arousal, intimacy, gender, body image, beauty, power and control provides both an arresting focus for discussion, and a safe distance from sensitive issues, that can have a transformative effect.

Stemming from our research which explores the ways in which people throughout history have turned to the past to make sense of sex in their own presents, Sex and History reconstructs such productive engagements with the past to open up new ways of thinking about sex today. For our historical research, this work has provided new insights into the way in which the past can be a powerful catalyst for self-discovery about sexuality, and also the potential for artefacts in particular to act as an accessible and immediate route to learning about past attitudes to sex, and the useful way in which they can be interpreted in many different ways for a variety of different arguments and debates about sexuality.

Sex and History uses museum visits and object-based workshops to add a new, rich dimension to sex education. It empowers young people to make healthy choices about sex and relationships and provides a wider social and cultural framework for the assimilation of biological and practical information about sexual health. The methodology is particularly effective in tackling those tricky subjects outside of the biological, such as relationships, consent, body-image and pornography and the media. We are working with the RSE Hub, Brook Bristol, and other sexual health and education researchers and practitioners on the production of resources for school teachers and to build robust methodologies for evaluating them in an educational context.

Sex and History works with museums and the cultural sector to enhance the relationship between young people and heritage and to shape social change. We focus on the production of creative interpretations of historical objects (including film making, soundscapes, dance, animation intergenerational discussion and exhibition curation) of demonstrable cultural, artistic, social and educational value, using a model of participation and co-production that has the capacity to transform mental, social and physical wellbeing and economic resilience.

Sex and History has received funding from Museums Libraries and Archives, The Wellcome Trust, REACT Pump priming; Catalyst Fund and the AHRC. We have worked with a wide range of partners including: Age Concern; Barnardos; Eddystone Trust; Effervescent social alchemy; Exeter Foyer; Groundwork SW;  Platform 51; Plymouth City Museum; Plymouth Youth Service; Russell-Coates Art Gallery and Museum; Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter; Royal Cornwall Museum; Truro; RSE Hub, The Science Museum, Wellcome Collection.

History of Sexuality exhibition curation and consultancy

As part of the Sex and History project, I have co-curated a major exhibition at Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. Intimate Worlds: Exploring Sexuality through the Wellcome Collection (2014) was the first dedicated exhibition of the erotic and sexually-related artefacts collected as part of the early twentieth century historical medical collection of Sir Henry Wellcome. Based largely on my doctoral research, this demonstrated Wellcome’s medical and anthropological interests in sexuality, and the collection stories behind the material which he sent his staff out around the world to acquire. We designed the exhibition and participation programme in order to prompt visitors to (re)consider their own attitudes towards such contemporary issues as censorship and display, gender and desire, the boundaries between childhood and adulthood, control of sexuality, fertility and contraception, pleasure and power relations.

I have also been an exhibition consultant on Desire, Love, Identity: Exploring LGBTQ Histories, at The British Museum (2017), and The Institute of Sexology (2014-15) at Wellcome Collection which featured sexually-related material from Sir Henry Wellcome’s collection, as well as sex researchers throughout the twentieth century.

Other object and archive-based engagement

I have organised and taken part in a number of activities which aim at engaging the public with history through material cultures, archaeology and archives.

I co-developed a well-received AHRC-funded blog project, 'Nemi to Nottingham' which brought together international early career and established researchers to contribute on the subject of the ancient Roman site of the Temple to Diana at Nemi, Italy and the story of the huge collection of anatomical votives found there, as they were redisplayed for the first time in thirty years at Nottingham Museum.

I have co-developed rhe Making Learning project using craft practices to learn about and connect with history and our own emotional lives. In this we have worked with arts festival visitors, school children, women who have experienced domestic violence and older people. I co-delivered workshops in which we recreated ancient anatomical votives as a way of learning about the ancient practice of representing health issues through an external object, and exploring its potential for wellbeing today.

I was also Library and Archive Volunteer at ss Great Britain Trust, Bristol, (2013-2014) and Roman Handling Sessions Volunteer at Bristol City Museums and Galleries in 2013. 

Presentations and workshops outside the academy 

I have been invited as a speaker and workshop facilitator at events aimed at a non-academic audience. These include:

Museum Curators of Classical Archaeology Collections Workshop, September 2018. 
LGBT History Month Bristol, workshop for young people, M Shed, February 2018.
Healthy Sexual Development symposium, University of Westminster, June 2017.
Exeter Pride, May 2017, workshops for young people on LGBT+ historical artefacts
‘Sex in Six Objects’ workshop series for young people on sexuality and historical artefacts, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge and Freud Museum London, 2016
Petrie Museum, UCL public lecture series, part of LGBT History Month, February 2016, ‘Gender Identities in the Past and Present: Hatshepsut & Akhenaten’
Sex Education Forum members event, June 2014.
Bristol PSHE network seminar, February 2014.
Petrie Museum, UCL public lecture series, May 2014, ‘Phallic Pots’.
Defining Desire: labels and sex in ancient and modern worlds, part of UCL Diversity Month and LGBT History month, UCL, February 2014.
National PSE Association for Advisors, Inspectors & Consultants (Nscopse) Conference, October 2013.
Royal Institution of Cornwall Spring Lecture, Royal Cornwall Museum, May 2010. 


My research has received media attention, for instance my work on homoerotic art collecting.

The Sex and History project which I work on has received considerable media attention and I have made media appearances representing the project, for instance on BBC Radio and and ‘Occupy the Airwaves’International Women’s Day takeover on Phonic FM. 

I also blog for Notches: (Re)Marks on the History of Sexuality.