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Department of Social Anthropology



Nicholas Thomas first visited the Pacific in 1984 to research his doctoral thesis on culture and change in the Marquesas Islands, which led to work ranging over Indigenous histories, cross-cultural encounters, colonialism and contemporary art. Foundation Director of the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research at the Australian National University (1996-99) and Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, London (1999-2006), since 2006 he has been Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, periodically chair of the University of Cambridge Musuems consortium and a Fellow of Trinity College. He is author or editor of nearly fifty books, including Entangled Objects (1991), which influentially contributed to a revival of material culture studies, Possessions: Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture (1999), Discoveries: the voyages of Captain Cook (2003) and Islanders: the Pacific in the age of empire (2012), which was awarded the Wolfson History Prize. He co-curated 'Oceania' for the Royal Academy in London and Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris, which attracted over 250,000 visitors. His current work, building on The Return of Curiosity: what museums are good for in the twenty-first century (2016), focusses on museum histories and futures; he has written for The Art Newspaper, Apollo and the Financial Times about restitution and other museum issues.


2019 (with Elena Govor) Tiki: Marquesan art and the Krusenstern voyage. Leiden: Sidestone

2019 (with Wayne Modest, Claudia Augustat and Doris Prilić) Matters of belonging: ethnographic museums in a changing Europe. Leiden: Sidestone

2018 Oceanic art, second edition. London: Thames and Hudson (World of Art series)

2018 Discoveries: the voyages of Captain Cook, second edition. London: Penguin

2018 (with Lucie Carreau, Alison Clark, Alana Jelinek and Erna Lilje) Pacific presences: Oceanic art and European museums. Leiden: Sidestone

2018 (with Peter Brunt) Oceania. London: Royal Academy of Arts

2018 ‘The museum as method, revisited’. In Philipp Schorch and Conal McCarthy (eds.) Curatopia: museums and the future of curatorship, 19-28. Manchester: Manchester University Press

2018 ‘Human flow in Melanesia: Taloi Havini’s artefacts and habitats’, Artlink 38 (3): 38-43

2018 'A great collection of curiosities from the South Sea Islands': William Hunter's ethnography. In Mungo Campbell and Nathan Fils (eds.) William Hunter and the anatomy of the modern museum, 130-145. New Haven: Yale University Press

2018 Culture and imperialism: John Pule's painting, 1990-2010. In Michelle Keown, Andrew Taylor and Mandy Treagus (eds.) Anglo-American Imperialism in the Pacific, 131-145. London: Routledge

2018 'Artist of PNG': Mathias Kauage and Melanesian modernism. In Elizabeth Harney and Ruth Phillips (eds.) Mapping modernisms: art, indigeneity, colonialism, 163-186. Durham, NC: Duke University Press

2018    'Specimens of bark cloth, 1769': the travels of textiles collected on Cook's first voyage. Journal of the History of Collections

2018    A case of identity: the artefacts of the 1770 Kamay (Botany Bay) encounter. Australian Historical Studies 49: 4-27

Director & Curator, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Professor  Nicholas  Thomas