Glaire Anderson


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Areas of Interest:
Medieval Islamic visual culture (architecture, objects, material culture);
Digital technologies for immersive experiences of history and art;
History and games/gaming;
Museums/Cultural Heritage;
Global encounters/exchange;
Islamic visual culture, Philippines and Southeast Asia

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Personal profile


I'm Glaire Anderson, award-winning author and expert in Islamic art and history during the caliphal period (c.650-1250).  I'm an advocate for the power of Islamic visual culture to reveal a more diverse and interconnected global history. My aim is to make Islamic art and history accessible to all through the Higher Ed, Games, and GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) sectors.  

My current research focuses on diversifying gaming and digital cultural heritage, and I have a longstanding interest in digital art history. I founded and lead the Digital Lab for Islamic Visual Culture & Collections to explore new technologies to create immersive experiences of medieval Islamic spaces and objects. 

Most of my work as a historian has focused on Cordoba, the capital of early Islamic Iberia, in its broader medieval Islamic contexts, especially in conversation with the contemporary Abbasid and Fatimid dynasties, as well as the Syrian Umayyads. My first book analysed the elite villas and court culture of Cordoba and early Islamic Spain.A special focus has been on medieval global connections between medieval Islamic and non-Islamic societies. 

 I've also written about powerful court women as 'makers' of medieval Islamic art, and about medieval Islamic science and visual culture. My second book (contracted for publication with Oxford University Press) explores early Islamic science and visual culture through the career of a 9th c. Cordoban intellectual, 'Abbas Ibn Firnas, who is remembered today for an experiment in early human flight. 

Before arriving in Edinburgh in 2018 I was Associate Professor of Art History with tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I taught Islamic art history since 2006. Before that I held visiting lectureships at Boston Architectural College, Dartmouth College, and Brandeis University.

I earned my PhD at MIT in 2005 in the History, Theory & Criticism of Architecture and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture. Before transitioning into the field of Islamic architecture and art history, I was interested in preserving America's historic buildings and urban fabric. I completed my MA in Architectural History and Historic Preservation at the University of Virginia in 1998. A highlight of my time at Virginia was a summer internship  at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, working with the Director of Restoration to do hands-on architectural conservation and restoration.   


Collaborative Activity

What do I do? 

I provide specialist historical knowledge on the Middle East and North Africa, including Islamic Spain and the Mediterranean, to creative directors, scriptwriters, and game designers looking for detailed, accurate historical information and inspiration to build diverse, authentic immersive worlds and experiences.

I offer expertise on:

  • architecture/ urbanism, art, archaeology, material culture
  • specific periods of Islamic history (including geography, politics, culture, science, literature, etc.)
  • insights, feedback, and recommendations on content and messaging

What is the real world applicability of my research?

  • I'm working in partnership with Edinburgh Innovations (the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service), providing support, funding, studentships, and connections to Scottish industry and networks.
  • I translate historical research for broad audiences. I have 20 years international experience in higher ed and GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museum) sectors, and demonstrated experience working collaboratively on games and immersive experiences
  • I bring background and experiences supporting depth in content and representation, and diversity and inclusion




  • The Arts in the Age of the Great Caliphs
  • Stars, Robots, and Talismans: Science, Magic, and Medieval Islamic Visual Culture


  • Digital Islamic Art History
  • Around 900: The Early Islamic West in a Global Context 

As well as teaching on programmes at Edinburgh College of Art, I teach on the MSc in Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.

Education/Academic qualification

History, Theory & Criticism of Architecture/ Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Doctor in Philosophy, MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

External positions

Editorial Board, Amsterdam University Press (Late Antique and Early Medieval Iberia Series)

2016 → …

Associate, International Center for Medieval Art

… → 2023


  • DP Spain
  • al-Andalus
  • NA Architecture
  • Islamic Architecture
  • DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
  • Islamic Mediterranean
  • DS Asia
  • Islamic History
  • CB History of civilization
  • Islamic Civilization
  • NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
  • Islamic Art
  • Cultural Heritage
  • Museums
  • Games

College Research Themes

  • Cultural Heritage
  • Data and Digital


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