Professor Laura Peers

Blackfoot shirt

Blackfoot shirt with porcupine quill decoration and painted image of war deeds (Pitt Rivers Museum)

Emeritus Professor

Until Professor Peers retired in 2018, she was Curator for the Americas Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum as well as Professor of Museum Anthropology and a Fellow of Linacre College. Her research focus is on the meanings of historic material culture to Indigenous communities today, and on changing relations between museums and indigenous communities.


Teaching and research interests

1) Reconnection Projects: In response to the desire by tribal members in North America to retrieve ancestral knowledge from historic artifacts to strengthen cultural identity, I have facilitated projects to reconnect community members with their material heritage in UK collections. These projects have generated new knowledge about collections and about methodology in museum anthropology:

-Great Box Project: Haida carvers Gwaai and Jaalen Edenshaw made an exact replica of a masterpiece Haida chest in the PRM collections and took the new box home to Haida Gwaii, to learn from the ancestral artist and inspire Haida artists today; website

- Blackfoot Shirts Project (Kaahsinooniksi Aotoksisaawooya/Our ancestors have come to visit: Reconnections with historic Blackfoot shirts) (2009-11, funded by AHRC and Oxford University Fell Fund; research conducted with Alison Brown, University of Aberdeen, and Heather Richardson, Head of Conservation, Pitt Rivers Museum): This project involved a loan of five 1830s Blackfoot shirts from the Pitt Rivers Museum to two museums in Alberta, Canada. While the shirts were in Canada, handling sessions were held with over 500 Blackfoot elders, ceremonialists, artists, teachers, and high school students to facilitate the transmission of cultural knowledge across generations and to explore the role of handling in provoking memory and knowledge. Further information here and an article, 'Ceremonies of Renewal'.

- Kainai visual repatriation project (funded by the AHRC, £78K, 2001-3) involved digitizing photographs in the PRM collections taken in 1925 on the Blood Reserve, Alberta, and taking copies back to the community to explore the issues of heritage objects (and photographs) for First Nations peoples today. See Alison Brown, Laura Peers, and members of the Kainai Nation, 'Pictures Bring Us Messages/Sinaakssiiksi Aohtsimaahpihkookiyaawa: Photographs and Histories from the Kainai Nation, University of Toronto Press, 2006.

2) Implementing aspects of new museology involving Indigenous peoples:

-Ethics of display and treatment of human remains within museum collections

The Great Box Project

Laura Peers and Jaalen Edenshaw presenting

to community members on the Great Box project,

Kay Llnagaay Heritage Centre, Haida Gwaii, Canada,

July 2016. Photo by Geoff Horner.

This work has included consultation with the Red Lake (Ojibwe) Nation in Minnesota regarding hair samples in the Pitt Rivers Museum (see ‘Strands which refuse to be braided,’ Journal of Material Culture, 2003), and participation as a member in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Human Remains Working Group (2001-3).

-Public history representation of Native Americans/First Nations at “living history” sites in North America; see Peers, Playing Ourselves: Interpreting Native Histories at Historic Reconstructions (AltaMira, 2007)

3) Research on historic artifacts in the Pitt Rivers Museum: Archival and comparative research on the specific trajectories of historic collections, and their shifting meanings across cultures and time, and issues in material culture theory.


Blackfoot Shirts Project Website
Great Box Project
Everything was Carved video
Brave New World Curator


Current DPhil students
Selected past DPhil students

Christofilli Kefalas (2012)
Maori Ways of Knowing: The politics of knowledge surrounding Taonga and the Charles Smith collection

Since graduating, Christo has been a British Museum Future Curator intrm.

Maureen Matthews (2010)
Repatriating Agency: Animacy, Personhood and Agency in the Repatriation of Ojibwe Artefacts

Maureen is now Curator of Ethnography at the Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg.

Cara Krmpotich (2008)
Repatriation and the Production of Kinship and Memory: Anthropological perspectives on the repatriation of Haida ancestral remains

Cara is now Assistant Professor in the Museum Studies programme at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.

Selected publications

Reconnections with Historic Blackfoot Shirts


2015, with Alison K. Brown, Our Ancestors have come to visit: the Blackfoot Shirts Project, Edmonton: Athabasca University Press.

2010, with Carolyn Podruchny, Gathering Places: Essays in Aboriginal and Fur Trade. Histories, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

2007, Playing Ourselves: Native American and First Nations Interpreters at Historic Reconstructions, AltaMira Press: Maryland.

2007, On the treatment of dead enemies: indigenous human remains in Britain in the early 21st century.

2006, with Alison Brown and members of the Kainai Nation, Pictures Bring Us Messages/Sinaakssiiksi Aohtsimaahpihkookiyaawa: Photographs and Histories from the Kainai Nation, University of Toronto Press: Toronto.

2003, Museums and Source Communities: a Routledge Reader, Routledge.

1994, The Ojibwa in Western Canada, 1780-1870, University of Manitoba Press, Native History Series, and St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press: Winnipeg.

1993, with Jacqueline Peterson, Sacred Encounters: Father De Smet and the Indians of the Rocky Mountain West. A Catalogue of the Exhibition, University of Oklahoma Press.

Edited books

2013, with Cara Krmpotich, 'This Is Our Life': Haida people, collections and international museums, Vancouver: UBC Press.

2002, My First Years in the Fur Trade: the Journals of 1802-1804, George Nelson, Minnesota Historical Society Press and McGill-Queen’s University Press: St. Paul and Montreal.

1995, with Regina Flannery and John S. Long, Ellen Smallboy: Glimpses of a Cree Woman's Life, Rupert's Land Record Society, McGill-Queen's University Press.

Articles and chapters

2016, ‘A token of remembrance: the gift of a Cree hood, Red River Settlement, 1844’, In John Long and Jennifer S.H. Brown (eds) Together We Survive: Ethnographic Intuitions, Friendships and Conversations, Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, pp. 107-129.

2013, ‘Ceremonies of Renewal: Visits, Relationships and Healing in the Museum Space’Museum Worlds 1 (1), pp. 136-152. 

2013, with Alison Brown, ‘The Blackfoot Shirts Project: Our Ancestors Have Come to Visit’, In Annie E Coombes and Ruth B Phillips (eds) Museum Transformations, Oxford: Blackwells.

2011, with Cara Krmpotich (eds), ‘The Scholar-practitioner expanded: An indigeneous and museum research network’Museum Management and Curatorship (Special issue) v26 (4), 2011.

2009, ‘'Almost true': Peter Rindisbacher's early images of Rupert's Land, 1821-26’, Art History 32 (3), June pp. 516-544.

2009. with Alison K. Brown, ‘Colonial Photographs and Postcolonial Relationships: the Kainai-Oxford Photographic Histories Project’, In Annis May Timpson (ed.) First Nations, First Thoughts: the impact of Indigenous thought in Canada, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, pp. 123-144.

2009, ‘Material Culture, Identity, and Colonial Society in the Canadian Fur Trade’, In Maureen Goggin and Beth Fowkes Tobin, Women and Things, 1750-1950: Gendered Material Strategies, Ashgate, pp. 55-74.

2009, ‘On the treatment of dead enemies: indigenous human remains in Britain in the early 21st century’, In Helen Lambert and Maryon Macdonald (eds) Social Bodies, Berghahn, pp. 77-99.

2004, ‘Repatriation: a gain for science?’, Anthropology Today Dec.2004 20 (6), pp. 3–4.

2003, ‘Strands which refuse to be braided: hair samples from Beatrice Blackwood’s collection at the Pitt Rivers Museum’, Journal of Material Culture 8 (1), pp. 75-96.

2002, with Alison Brown, ‘Sharing Knowledge’, Museums Journal, pp. 25-27.

2002, ‘Revising the Past: the Heritage elite and Native peoples in North America’, Association of Social Anthropology Monographs 38, pp. 173-188.

2000, ‘A Review of the Chase Manhattan Gallery’, Anthropology Today 16 (6), pp. 8–13.

2000, with Jennifer Brown, ‘There is No End to Relationships Among the Indians’, The History of the Family: an International Quarterly 4 (4), pp. 529-555.

1999, ‘‘Many Tender Ties’: The Shifting Contexts and Meanings of the S BLACK Bag’, World Archaeology 31 (2), pp. 288-302.

1999, ‘Playing Ourselves: Native Peoples and Public History Sites’, The Public Historian 21 (4), pp. 39-59.