Nicholas Thomas delivered the Iris Foundation Awards Lecture on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 from 5:30-7:30pm. His talk is entitled “The Return of Curiosity: What Museums Are Good for in the Twenty-First Century.”

At the BGC, Dr. Thomas will speak about “The Return of Curiosity: What Museums Are Good for in the Twenty-First Century.” From the 1990s onward, a critical literature burgeoned around “the ruins of the museum.” The presumption that museums were exhausted and lacked legitimacy failed to prepare us for a period of unprecedented renewal. This lecture will consider what museums now have to offer, focusing particularly on collections as creative technologies, now visible as stranger and more fertile formations than we have previously recognized.

Nicholas Thomas is the Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, U.K., which was shortlisted for the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year Prize in 2013. Formerly Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, he has worked in Fiji and New Zealand, as well as in many archives and museum collections in Europe, North America, and the Pacific.

Dr. Thomas studied anthropology and history at the Australian National University first visiting Polynesia in 1984 to research his PhD thesis on the Marquesas Islands. He has since written extensively on art, empire, and Pacific history and has curated exhibitions in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K., many in collaboration with contemporary artists. Dr. Thomas’s research on history and art in the Pacific has rangedfrom early contacts between Islanders and Europeans through colonial encounters to contemporary art. His early book, Entangled Objects (1991), contributed to a revival of material culture studies; other publications include Oceanic Art (1995); Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain Cook (2003); and Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire (2010), which was awarded the Wolfson History Prize. With Peter Brunt and other colleagues, he recently co-authored Art in Oceania: A New History (2012).