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Chris Wingfield

  • Chris WingfieldAssociate Professor in the Arts of Africa
  • Tel0044 (0)1603 593756
  • Academic Background BA Archaeology & Anthropology (2000); MPhil Material Anthropology & Museum Ethnography (2002), University of Oxford; PhD (2012), University of Birmingham.
    Curator, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (2004-2006); Researcher, Pitt Rivers Museum (2006-2009); Associate Lecturer, Open University (2009-2013); Senior Curator, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Cambridge (2012-2018).
  • General Research Interests Museum collections, Art and material culture, Southern Africa, Missionary Heritage
  • Current Research

    • Prior to coming to the SRU, Chris worked at at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Cambridge, and before that at the Open University, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

      In 2017, Chris had a South African National Research Foundation fellowship for UK researchers at the University of Cape Town’s Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative to develop a long-term experimental collaborative research project: Re-collecting the Missionary Road. Working with students and colleagues in South Africa, this seeks to explore the contemporary significance of Britain’s long term engagements in southern Africa, bringing collections in British museums into conversation with the places from which they originally came, and the descendants of those from whom they were collected.

      This recent work has developed from Chris’ PhD research on the museum of the London Missionary Society (1814-1910), as well as an AHRC networking grant he was subsequently awarded together with Karen Jacobs Who Cares? The material heritage of British missions in Africa and the Pacific, and its future.

      From 2018 – 2021, Chris was a Co-Investigator on a major AHRC grant Museum Affordances, led by Paul Basu at SOAS. This is focussed on the collections made by Northcote Thomas, first government anthropologist in Nigeria, and their significance and potential today. The project will culminate in an exhibition at MAA, Cambridge in 2021.

      Chris is Principal Investigator on a British Museum Endangered Material Knowledge Programme grant 'Making things from Animals: Leather Technologies of the Kalahari', working with Maitseo Bolaane at the University of Botswana and Novelette-Aldoni Stewart.

  • Selected Publications

    • 2020. Art, animals and animism: on the trail of the precolonial, in The Pasts and Presence of Art in South Africa. Cambridge: McDonald Institute (Conversations), p. 111-126:

      2020. Edited with Giblin, J. & King, R. The Pasts and Presence of Art in South Africa: Technologies, ontologies and agents. Cambridge: McDonald Institute (Conversations), Cambridge:

      2019. with J.A. Zetterstrom-Sharp, "Safe Space" to Debate Colonial Legacy: The University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Campaign to Return a Looted Benin Altarpiece to Nigeria, in Museum Worlds: Advances in Research. 7, 1, p. 1-22. DOI:

      2018.  Articles of Dress, Domestic Utensils, Arms and Other Curiosities: Excavating Early 19th-Century Collections from Southern Africa at the London Missionary Society Museum. Journal of Southern African Studies, 44:4, 723-742, DOI: 10.1080/03057070.2018.1491519

      2018. Collection as (Re)assemblage: refreshing museum archaeology. World Archaeology; DOI:10.1080/00438243.2017.1406395.  

      2017. ‘Scarcely more than a Christian trophy case’?: The global collections of the London Missionary Society museum (1814-1910). Journal of the History of Collections vol. 29 no.1 (2017) pp.109-128; DOI: 10.1093/jhc/fhw002

      2017. Missionary Museums. In Religion in Museums, Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives (eds.) G. Buggeln, C. Paine and S. Brent Plate, 231-238. Bloomsbury: London.

      2015. Trophies, Relics and Curios? Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific. Edited with K. Jacobs and C. Knowles. Sidestone Press: Leiden.

      2014. Who Cares? The Material Heritage of British Missions in Africa and the Pacific, and its future. With K. Jacobs. Journal of Museum Ethnography 27, 129-136:

      2013. Reassembling the London Missionary Society collection: experiments with symmetrical anthropology and the archaeological sensibility. In Reassembling the Collection (eds) S. Byrne, A. Clarke, & R. Harrison, 61-87. SAR Seminar Series: Santa Fe.

      2012. Photographing ‘the Bridge’: Product and Process in the analysis of a Social Situation in non-modern Zululand. In Photography in Africa: Ethnographic Perspectives (ed.) R. Vokes, 56-80. Oxford: James Currey.

      2011. From Greater Britain to Little England: the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Museum of English Rural Life, and their Six Degrees of Separation. Museum History Journal 4:2, 245-265. DOI: 10.1179/mhj.2011.4.2.245

      2011. Donors, Loaners, Dealers and Swappers: The Relationships behind the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum. In Unpacking the Collection: Museums, Identity and Agency (eds) S. Byrne, A. Clarke, R. Harrison & R. Torrence, 119-140. New York: Springer.

      2011. Placing Britain in the British Museum: Encompassing the Other. In National Museums: New Studies from Around the World (eds) P. Aronsson, A. Amundsen & S. Knell, 123-137. London: Routledge.

      2010. A Case Re-opened: The Science and Folklore of a “Witch’s Ladder”. Journal of Material Culture 15:3, 302-322. DOI: doi: 10.1177/1359183510373982

      2010. Touching the Buddha: encounters with a charismatic object. In Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretations (ed.) S. Dudley, 53-70. London: Routledge.