Public history

Of colonial military objects, contest and sentiment

23 February 2022

Of colonial military objects, contest and sentiment

Legacies of Empire exhibition National War Museum 

Hands on History talk with Dr. Henrietta Lidchi, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, Leiden.

What roles do the products of colonial conflict play in the culture of memory in military museums? Thinking through questions of materiality, memory and collecting, the lecture will consider especially those collections held in British military museums arising through colonial wars. The research that informs the lecture comes out of a multi-year research project, combining material anthropology and military history, that seeks to address in particular the material legacies in military museums, as distinct from those in national museums. In recent years the question of colonial collections has regained popular prominence, with a clear association of European collections of the non-European world with the phenomenon of looting, and thus within a wider debate about the legitimacy and legality of the taking and retention of such objects. This research addresses colonial military objects to understand how their retention influences what can be known about the acquisitive behaviours of those in colonial military service, and how these insights can assist as we discuss the contested presence of colonial objects in museums.



Henrietta Lidchi is Head of Research and Collections at Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, Leiden, the Netherlands. Her main research interests are Native American art and material culture, histories of collections and practices of museum display, as well as contemporary artistic practices and photography. More recently she has been concentrating on questions of colonial collections, especially those collected by the military.  Publications include the “Poetics and Politics of Representing other Cultures” (1997); Imaging the Arctic (1998); Visual Currencies: Reflections on Native Photography (2009); Surviving Desires: Making and Selling Jewellery in the American Southwest (2015); Dividing the Spoils: Perspectives on military collecting and the British Empire (2020). She is Honorary Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, Research Fellow at Centre for Anthropological Research in Museums and Heritage, Humboldt University, Berlin.


Wednesday, 23 February 2022

13.30 - 14.30

Online - Webex

If you want to participate, please send an e-mail to