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Pacific Ethnology

Dr. Jenny Newell meets with tifaifai (appliqué quilt) makers in Tahiti, 2003.


Dr. Jennifer Newell is curator of Pacific Ethnology. Her particular interests are in material culture and the relationship between Pacific Islanders and their environments. Her major research project explores climate change and cultural change in the Pacific. This research will be tracing how islanders in a range of atolls and islands are perceiving the challenges of sea level rise, extreme weather events, loss of reefs, and more, and how they are thinking about maintaining cultural continuity in the face of needing to leave their home islands. The project also investigates how museums might usefully provide places for diaspora communities to meet and reconnect with their heritage. Dr. Newell has previously worked in the Oceanic section at the British Museum (2001-2008) and the National Museum of Australia (2008-2012). She has worked closely with Pacific diaspora communities, and with individual curators, artists and scholars in the Pacific.

Her first book, Trading Nature, is a monograph exploring the environmental and cultural implications of exchanges between Tahitians and Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries. Pacific Art in Detail, her second book, is an introduction to the arts of the Pacific through contextualising key objects in the British Museum’s Pacific collection.

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