I have been passionate about the past since childhood, and my love of history, art and languages began with the Celts, especially the Picts and cultures of early medieval Scotland. Growing up in Alabama, I had the immense good fortune to receive a liberal arts education from the University of Montevallo, where technical, interdisciplinary, and critical thinking skills were supported, and my decision to study Scotland from abroad was positively encouraged. In 2005 I moved to the UK, and completed a masters degree and doctorate in medieval history at the University of Oxford.
Precious few written documents survive from early medieval Scotland, but historical evidence survives in place-names and the archaeological record, including a plethora of carved monuments—Pictish symbol stones and crosses—which provides one of the richest visual repertoires of culture and belief from the early medieval world. This evidence fuelled my interest in onomastics (the study of names) and monumental art history and epigraphy.
My research embraces an interdisciplinary approach to study sacred landscapes and the material culture of sacred spaces in Northern Britain and Ireland from c.100-1200 AD. In the former, I examine the medieval curation of sacred landscapes through the combined study of place-name, literary, historical, and archaeological evidence. My interest in the material culture of sacred space primarily focuses on monuments, and in this field my research examines how beliefs and cultural influences are communicated in the visual and epigraphic repertoire of late Iron Age and early medieval carved monuments. I am also interested in gender and identity studies, Celtic epigraphy, and the significance of place-names in medieval British and Irish literature. My work is at the forefront of developments in the digital humanities; I have participated in digitization projects, created 3D models of medieval sculpture, and am currently principal investigator of a project using satellite and aerial surveying technology to study early ecclesiastical sites in Western Scotland.
Sharing my passion for the ancient and medieval world is one of the joys of my career. I have taught at the University of Nottingham, NUI Galway, and currently teach at the University of Glasgow. One of my proudest achievements was winning a Staff Oscar from the University of Nottingham Students’ Union for Most Inspiring Teacher. I am also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My commitment to sharing knowledge extends beyond the academy. I regularly present at conferences and public lectures, and work with community projects and broadcasting.
I am also a musician and am particularly interested in folk-music, notably Scottish music and the music of the Middle Ages. In addition to piano and dulcimer, I play the Highland bagpipes and was a member of Heritage Pipes and Drums (now Ian Sturrock Memorial Pipe Band) before moving to the UK. I have studied at the Colaisde na Gàidhlig in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and I am a Gaelic singer.