Prof. dr. Nicholas Thomas

Nicholas Thomas was an undergraduate at the Australian National University from 1979 to 1982; his BA (Honours) thesis, on Fijian politics, was supervised by Anthony Forge. He visited the Pacific first in 1984 to undertake doctoral research in the Marquesas Islands and has since written extensively on exploration and cross-cultural encounters and on art histories in the Pacific. He has been Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge since 2006.

Key publications:

2016, (with Maia Nuku, Julie Adams, Billie Lythberg and Amiria Salmond) Artefacts of Encounter: Cook’s Voyages, Colonial Collecting and Museum Histories. Otago: Otago University Press.

2016, The return of curiosity: what museums are good for in the twenty first century. London: Reaktion / Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

2012, (with Peter Brunt, Sean Mallon, Lissant Bolton, Deidre Brown, Damian Skinner and Susanne Kuechler) Art in Oceania: a new history. London: Thames and Hudson / New Haven: Yale University Press. Awarded the Art Book Prize


Books by Nicholas Thomas

Matters of Belonging

Ethnographic Museums in a Changing Europe

Edited by Wayne Modest, Nicholas Thomas, Doris Prlić & Claudia Augustat | 2019

Matters of Belonging brings to the foreground critical practices within ethnographic museums in relation to their diverse stakeholders, with a special focus on collaboration with artists and differently constituted, self-identified communities. This book emerges from…




Tiki

Marquesan Art and the Krusenstern expedition

Edited by Elena Govor and Nicholas Thomas | 2019

Created across the six islands of a remote archipelago in eastern Polynesia, the art of the Marquesas is one of the world’s most distinctive and remarkable art traditions. Though exhibited in major museums around the…




Pacific Presences - Volume 1

Oceanic Art and European Museums

Edited by Lucie Carreau, Alison Clark, Alana Jelinek, Erna Lilje & Nicholas Thomas | 2018

Hundreds of thousands of works of art and artefacts from many parts of the Pacific are dispersed across European museums. They range from seemingly quotidian things such as fish-hooks and baskets to great sculptures of…




Pacific Presences - Volume 2

Oceanic Art and European Museums

Edited by Lucie Carreau, Alison Clark, Alana Jelinek, Erna Lilje & Nicholas Thomas | 2018

Hundreds of thousands of works of art and artefacts from many parts of the Pacific are dispersed across European museums. They range from seemingly quotidian things such as fish-hooks and baskets to great sculptures of…




Style and Meaning

Essays on the anthropology of art

Anthony Forge (edited by Alison Clark and Nicholas Thomas) | 2017

Anthropology’s engagement with art has a complex and uneven history. While material culture, ‘decorative art’, and art styles were of major significance for founding figures such as Alfred Haddon and Franz Boas, art became marginal…




Photo-Museology

The presence of absence and the absence of presence

Mark Adams and Nicholas Thomas | Forthcoming

Ethnographic museums, now often rebranded as collections of ‘world cultures’, appear permanently problematic, even as their contexts and the orientation of their activities change. Across Europe and elsewhere, curators and other museum staff are committed…










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