Dr Kirsten Carter McKee is a specialist in urban history and heritage. She is interested in inclusive and sustainable practices in researching architectural and urban history, and her current work engages with the crossover between historical discourse and the links between this, and heritage management of the built environment. Her previous work has engaged with the development of imperial landscapes, and her book on this Calton Hill and the Third new Town (Birlinn 2018) addresses this from the perspective of Scotland’s role in Imperial expansion between the 18th and 20th centuries. Her current work expands this discourse around imperial landscapes in our urban realm to consider how we can be more inclusive in our narrative of trans-Atlantic slave trade and Empire in Scotland’s interpretation of its built environment.
Kirsten started out as an archaeologist, and has excavated around the world (including in the U.K., where she realised that she would much rather be indoors during the cold and wet winter months.) Her work as an urban historian and heritage practitioner has been based in commercial companies, government organisations, and charitable bodies, giving her a broad understanding of the different roles and challenges of heritage management within the development of the built environment. Kirsten gained her PhD from Edinburgh in 2013, and has been engaged as a specialist in Heritage and Planning in both academia, and at high level strategic government decisions on Scotland’s historic environment as part of her postdoctoral research.
Kirsten’s teaching is led by her research in focusing on recognising British Authority through its urban footprint, and discussing how the urban realm is used as a tool of control and propaganda through state governance and policies. This has led into analysis of the built environment in the present day, and the impact that historic interpretation has on our current societal values. Her teaching therefore also heavily focuses on the use of heritage as a transitional justice tool to address societal inequalities and the impact of climate change, and the sustainable practices that we can all engage with as global citizens to begin to address these issues.
Kirsten’s research focus has two main threads: Firstly - the role of the urban form as a tool for governance and control. While her work has often focused on the long 18th century, particularly in a Scottish context, it has explored areas such as urban landscape design, monumentality within the urban landscape, and the emergence of the picturesque in Neo-classical architectural and landscape design. She has produced and curated a number of publications and exhibitions exploring these areas, and often engages in talks and public outreach through talks and social media to discuss these concepts further.
Her second research thread focuses on hidden narratives within our built environment, in particular the narrative of empire and the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. Her current 2-year collaborative RSE project (2020-22), titled Managing Imperial Legacies, focuses on how we can recognise the scale of Scotland’s involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade through the urban form, and how we can tackle the residual legacies of white supremacy by fully engaging with this hidden history in the narrative of our built heritage.