The Media of Mediumship
Encountering the Material Culture of Modern Occultism in Britain's Science, Technology, and Magic Collections
Encountering the Material Culture of Modern Occultism in Britain's Science, Technology, and Magic Collections


Professor Christine Ferguson, Principal Investigator

Christine Ferguson is a Professor in English Studies at the University of Stirling, where her research focuses on the entwined histories of the literary gothic and the British occult revival in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She is the author of Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity, and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-American Spiritualist Writing 1848-1930 (Edinburgh University Press, 2012) and Language, Science, and Popular Fiction in the Victorian Fin de Siècle (Ashgate 2006); with Andrew Radford, she co-edited The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947 (Routledge 2018) and led the AHRC research network Popular Occulture in Britain. She is currently preparing the first ever scholarly edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s spiritualist novel The Land of Mist and associated spiritualist writings, which will contextualize the popular author’s involvement in the Cottingley Fairies case within the new religious techno-cultures of the early twentieth century. With Dr Manon Hedenborg White, she leads the ESSWE Network for the study of Esotericism, Gender, and Sexuality.

Dr Efram Sera-Shriar, Co-Investigator

Efram Sera-Shriar is Senior Researcher and Research Grants Manager for the Science Museum Group, where he is responsible for leading and developing all grant-based research across the organisation. His research focuses on five main areas: context of Victorian science; global histories of race; historical anthropology and Indigenous studies; cultures of science and religion – especially occultism, witchcraft and esotericism; and material studies of cultures. His books include The Making of British Anthropology, 1813-1871 (2013), and Historicizing Humans: Deep Time, Evolution, and Race in Nineteenth-Century British Sciences (2018). Since 2006 he has also been a senior editor for The Correspondences of John Tyndall. His current book project Psychic Investigators: Anthropology, Modern Spiritualism, and Credible Witnessing in the Late Victorian Age, which is under contract with University of Pittsburgh Press, provides an important new historical narrative on British anthropology’s engagement with psychical research during the closing decades of the nineteenth century. He is also the Principal Investigator of the Science of Ghosts Project, funded by the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, and co-editing with Christine Ferguson the forthcoming special issue, Science and Spiritualism in Historical Perspective, 1848-1914, which will be published in the peer-reviewed journal, Aries.

Emma Merkling, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Emma Merkling is a Ph.D. Candidate and Associate Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Emma’s research focuses on the interwoven relationships between late nineteenth-century art, science, and occult beliefs in Britain, with a particular focus on queer and women artists; physics, mathematics, and psychical research; and spiritualism. Emma has previously held curatorial, research, and fellowship positions at the Frick Collection and the Yale Center for British Art. Recent publications include ‘“Symbols Bewitched”: Algebraic Form and Symbolic Logic in Evelyn De Morgan’s fin-de-siècle Spiritualist Allegories’, in William and Evelyn De Morgan, ed. by Margaretta Frederick (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022, in press), and ‘The Sensate Body: Consciousness in Albert Moore’s Art’, in immediations 4.3 (2018).