I am currently Director of the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Prior to this I was Head of Research and Collections at the National Museum of World Cultures (Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen) in the Netherlands, a post I held from 2017-2022. From 2005 to 2017, I was Keeper of the Department of World Cultures, National Museums Scotland. Prior to this (1994-2002) I worked at the British Museum as a curator on the North American collections with a short interim period at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in London, as a policy and funding official.
My interests are in particular the art and material culture of Indigenous North American, as well as questions to do with the critical history of collecting in European museums and issues of representation in museums and display. Most recently I have been researching imperial histories of collecting focusing in particular on military collecting practices. In Scotland, I was a Principal Investigator for the project Baggage and Belonging: Military Collections and the British Empire (1750-1900) which focused on regimental museum collections and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/P006752/1). I am also involved in the research project Pressing Matters, which links the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam to the National Museum of World Cultures, this continues the emphasis on military collecting.
During my career I have worked on a number of temporary exhibitions and permanent galleries as well as government policy documents on repatriation, human remains and museums, in the UK, the Netherlands and Austria. Between 2016-2020, I was Vice President of the Native American Art Studies Association. I am currently Honorary Professor of the School of Political and Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh and a Research Fellows at the National Museums Scotland, linked to the publication of research coming out of Baggage and Belonging.
My interests include working questions of colonial collecting and the history of collections; practices of representation, collecting and display; visual culture; questions of craft and craft practice and Native North American art and material culture. My book chapter on ‘The Poetics and Politics of Representing Other Cultures’ is being extended and republished as a 3rd edition of Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices due to be published in 2023. Other publications include the co-edited Imaging the Arctic (1998), Visual Currencies (2009), and Dividing the Spoils (2020) and the monograph Surviving Desires: making and selling jewellery in the American Southwest (2015).
While at CARMAH I worked on special journal issue arising from conference presentations organized by CARMAH at EASA in Milan. I also contributed to the strand of research called ‘Transforming the Ethnographic’, taking forward research on collecting practices, museums and the question of confinement and the relationship between museum anthropology and academic anthropology.