Dr. Mirjam Brusius is a cultural historian with an interest in the circulation of objects and images in and between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. She specializes in the history of photography, museums, collecting and race in colonial contexts.
She is particularly interested in where museum objects come from and where they go, why some objects are displayed while others remain in storage, and what happens to repatriated objects. She also explores the scientific misuse of antiquities and the afterlife of objects beyond museums.
Brusius started writing about the ‘journey’ of museum objects more than a decade ago, before the topic was at the heart of public debate. Today, the public increasingly questions where objects that adorn European museums really come from, but Brusius tries to focus on the less obvious answers, exploring the “in-between” spaces – what happens between archaeological excavation and the museum display, for example.
As co-founder of the “100 Histories of 100 Worlds in 1 Object” grassroots project, Brusius combines historical research with curatorial practice to facilitate a more egalitarian dialogue between Western museums and communities of origin. The project began as an alternative history to the British Museum’s collection, but thanks to collaborators in and from the Global South, the project has become more: it is now a global network that aims to enrich current debates on repatriation and decolonization by foregrounding voices that were formerly underrepresented.
After completing a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, Brusius held postdoctoral fellowship positions at the Max Planck Society, Harvard University, and the University of Oxford. She is currently a Research Fellow in Colonial and Global History at GHI London. She is also a member of the Global Young Academy. She is in the process of completing a book on the movement of ancient artefacts from the Middle East to Western museums (Oxford University Press) and a short monograph on the politics of museum storage.
Her most recent book on the inventor of photography, W.H.F. Talbot, Science, and Empire, will be published with The University of Chicago Press. She has published widely in peer-reviewed journals, and is a regular media contributor on issues related to memory culture in Britain and Germany.