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Career Profiles

Mathieu Viau-Courville, Researcher, Musées de la civilisation, Québec (SRU PhD).

Mathieu Viau-Courville, Researcher and Scientific Outreach Advisor, Musées de la civilisation, Québec

I was immediately attracted to the Sainsbury Centre as a unique research institution where, as a SRU research student, I could combine my art historical background with my interests in anthropology and archaeology. The time spent there was most pivotal. Throughout my doctoral years, the Centre fostered learning and exchange opportunities with a very supportive and accessible world-class interdisciplinary faculty and fellow postgraduate students alike – many of us still in touch today! Dr George Lau, my thesis advisor, provided me with both solid support and offered the flexibility to pursue my ideas in an original and independent manner. That this research was conducted in a stunning building, surrounded daily by objects from around the world, certainly proved inspirational. Generous SRU funding enabled me to spend much time in the field, gathering crucial new materials for my research, but also building strong ties with international communities, in South America especially. This complemented and enriched my training, and led to my job at the Musée de la civilisation right after the completion of my PhD.

Boris Wastiau, Director of the Museum of Ethnography, Geneva (SRU MA and PhD).

Boris Wastiau, Director of the Museum of Ethnography, Geneva

I moved to Norwich in 1992 for an MA in Advanced Studies in Non-Western Art at the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. It was then a big move for me and the discovery of a new study and research culture. Bridging anthropology and art history, this training proved very valuable and I particularly appreciated the international background of both staff and students. Continuous support is what I appreciated most!

I had my first successful job application and left in 1996, when I was only beginning to write up my Ph.D. dissertation. After eleven years as curator of central African ethnography at the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Belgium), I moved to the Museum of Ethnography in Geneva, first as curator for Africa and the Americas, and since February 2009 as director of the institution. I am alway impressed to find so many alumni of the SRU and of the School in the museums that I visit!

Fiona Savage, 25th Anniversary Research Fellow (SRU MA and PhD).

Fiona Savage nee Sheales, 25th Anniversary Research Fellow, Sainsbury Research Unit.

I spent three years studying for my undergraduate degree at the School of World Art and Museuology (WAM) and a further four years at the Sainsbury Research Unit (SRU) studying for my Masters and Doctoral degrees. The SRU provided me with a very supportive environment in which to work and the collections of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA) were a constant source of inspiration.

The unique inter-disciplinary approach to the study of non-western art and the practical skills that I learned during this period were constantly used by me in my previous role as Curator for West African Collections at the British Museum.  In October 2013 I returned to the SRU as the 25th Anniversary Research Fellow and am currently engaged in two research projects, one in collaboration with the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (AOA) at the British Museum, which will result in the publication of an online West African Goldweight Research Catalogue (forthcoming 2014) and the other project will culminate in the publication of a monograph based on my Ph.D (forthcoming 2016).  In my new role  I also teach elements of the SRU Master's programme which enables me to facilitate the research and studies of post-graduate students who are interested in pursuing a career in academia or the museum and heritage sector here in the UK and internationally.

Kiprop Lagat (PhD 2014)

Kiprop is the Principle Research Scientist & Personal Assistant to the Director General, National Museums of Kenya (NMK). Part of his work includes developing grant applications to solicit funding for the continuation of NMK research work and identifying research innovations with potential significance to national and international development.

Aoife O'Brien, Oceania Curator, Sweden

In October 2017 Aoife began her new role as Oceania curator for National Museums of World Culture in Sweden. She is responsible for the collections in Etnografiska museet in Stockholm (where she will be based) as well as those in the Varldskulturmuseerna in Gothenburg.

Previously in August 2014 Aoife held a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in Oceanic Art in St Louis. This was a joint teaching-curatorial position divided between the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis and The Saint Louis Art Museum. Aoife was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Oceanic Art and a Korff Postdoctoral Fellow in Oceanic Art.


Julia Burtenshaw-Zumstein, Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellowship at the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Commencing in January 2014 this two year Fellowship will involve assisting in the preparation and installation of the department’s yearly gallery rotation. During the first year I will work under the supervision of curatorial staff to research a newly acquired collection of Colombian ceramics for the following year’s rotation. In addition, I will also assist curatorial staff with the research of upcoming exhibitions.

Wonu Veys

Wonu was appointed as the Curator of Oceania at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden in 2009. She is also the Vice President, Chair of the Pacific Arts Association - Europe (PAA-E).

Julie Adams (MA 01/02, PhD 07), Senior Research Associate at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge

Lucie Carreau (MA 04/05, PhD 09) Research Associate, MAA Cambrige

Alison Clark (MA 06/07)Research Assistant, MAA, Cambridge

All of the above SRU graduates are working on the European Research Council funded project ‘Pacific Presences: Oceanic Art and European Museums’ (2013-2018). The project investigates the extensive Pacific holdings of a series of European institutions in a bid to further advance understandings of materiality and cross-cultural histories, as well as present day museum policy and practice.