Research Projects

past and present
museum collection

Musée Royal de Mariemont

The Musée Royal de Mariemont has acquired a collection of Amazigh and Tuareg jewellery and related objects from North Africa. I am providing identifications, descriptions and background information on the collection. A research article on the collection will be published in the museum’s scholarly journal.

collections in context

Collection History

How did items of personal adornment end up abroad? Much of it was sold off after World War II, when travel and work migration increased. Notably on the Arab Peninsula, foreigners collected jewellery, dress and related objects in a region unknown to many people. What sparked their interest? Who did they buy from? What stories have they heard? I’m delving into the history of collecting, by going back to the archives as a first step. The Expatriate Archive Center in The Hague holds a document and film archive that I have been granted access to. Interviews with collectors and organizations will help me provide context to collecting. This research will be published in a series of articles.

PhD research

Jewellery and ritual

Jewellery in the zār is the focus of my PhD research at Leiden University. I chose this topic to work on, because it is an excellent example of my general aim: to show how jewellery is not just adornment, but a living aspect of a culture and in a person’s life.

In this study many collections of Egyptian zār-jewellery have been analyzed. These are museum collections as well as private collections, providing an unprecedented overview of zār amulets and other jewellery. First, I introduce the zār ritual. Next, I examine how these jewellery items ended up in European museum collections and private collections all over the world. From there, I track what has been said about them during the century of their existence, charting the divided perspectives ranging from superstition to meaningful act. This will help me in some myth-busting about zār jewellery: many of the things you read online about them have no connection to their original nature.

And finally, I discuss their potential as a historic source themselves: they document history and the perspective of women in an unparalleled way.

sunken heritage

17th century buttons

In the 17th century, a ship sank with all its cargo off the coast of Texel island in The Netherlands. On the ship a variety of wares from European and Mediterranean provenance was found, including a series of silver and gold decorative buttons. I have been asked to contribute to their identification and provenance. The results will be published in an article.