Projects per year
Chris was born in South Africa, but has lived in the UK since his family moved in the mid-1980s. He studied Archaeology & Anthropology at Oxford, where he completed a dissertation on Iron in Zimbabwe. He went on to an M.Phil in Material Anthropology & Museum Ethnography at the Pitt Rivers Museum, writing his thesis on Ostrich Egghell Beads in the Kalahari.
Following periods as a researcher on the Relational Museum Project and studying museum collections from Arnhem Land at the ANU in Australia, he was appointed Curator of Human History at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, where he took responsibility for the Vibes project, exploring musical links between West Africa, the West Indies and the West Midlands.
In 2006, he returned to the Pitt Rivers Museum to work on the Other Within Project, exploring questions of Englishness, at the same time as undertaking a part-time PhD at the University of Birmingham on the Museum of the London Missionary Society (active in southern Africa from 1799). Between 2009 and 2013 he worked as an Associate Lecturer at the Open University, teaching courses on Understanding Global Heritage and Material Culture.
Following completion of his PhD in 2012, Chris was awarded an AHRC networking grant Who Cares? The material heritage of British missions in Africa and the Pacific, and its future, together with Karen Jacobs. He was subsequently appointed Senior Curator at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology in Cambridge and worked on a number of exhibitions, the museum's accreditation submission, as well as generating a purpose-built museum database with online web access to the collections.
In September 2018 Chris joined the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. From 2018 – 2021, he was a Co-Investigator on a major AHRC grant Museum Affordances, led by Paul Basu at SOAS. This focussed on the collections made by Northcote Thomas, first government anthropologist in Nigeria, and their significance and potential today. The project culminated in the [Re:]Entanglements exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Cambridge in 2021-22.
Key Research Interests
Having undertaken fieldwork in southern Africa, northern Australia and Jamaica, his work is situated at the intersection of a number of different disciplinary and scholarly traditions.
Chris is particularly interested in the history of museums and collections, with a particular focus on missionary and anthropological collections and the ways these have informed the production of images. In 2022 these interests came together in Argonauts of the Eastern Atlantic - An Artefactual History of the London Missionary Society.
Between July to December 2017, Chris held a South African National Research Foundation fellowship for UK researchers at the University of Cape Town’s Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative. The main purpose of this was to develop a long-term collaborative research project: Re-collecting the Missionary Road.
Working with students and colleagues in South Africa and the UK, this seeks to explore the contemporary significance of Britain’s long term missionary engagements in southern Africa, bringing collections in British museums into conversation with the places from which they originally came, and the descendants of those from whom they were collected.
In 2020, Chris was awarded a British Museum Endangered Material Knowledge Project grant to work with colleagues on a project entitled: Making Things from Animals: Leather Technologies of the Kalahari.
Chris is the co-host of African Object Lessons, a podcast developed with PhD student Benjamina Efua Dadzie to host conversation with scholars, curators, artists and activist relating to African Objects in, about and beyond the museum.
B.A. Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Oxford (2000)
MPhil Material Anthropology & Museum Ethnnography, University of Oxford (2002)
PhD University of Birmingham (2012)
Prior to coming to the SRU, Chris worked at at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Cambridge (2012-2018), and before that at the Open University (2009-2013), the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (2002 & 2006-9), and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (2004-2006).
Associate Researchers, University of Cape Town
1 Jul 2017 → …
Historical Artefacts and Artefactual Histories: Completing and Communicating an Experimental Digital Monograph
1/01/24 → 31/12/24
1/03/21 → 31/07/23
Leather trousers and leopard skin waistcoats: absent objects and endangered material knowledge from the Kalahari
1/10/19 → 30/09/23
Wingfield, C., 14 Nov 2020, The Pasts and Presence of Art in South Africa . Cambridge: McDonald Institute, Cambridge, p. 111-126 16 p. (Conversations).
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › ChapterOpen Access
A "safe space" to debate colonial legacy: The University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the campaign to return a looted Benin altarpiece to NigeriaZetterstrom-Sharp, J. & Wingfield, C., 2019, In: Museum Worlds: Advances in Research. 7, 1, p. 1-22 22 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile4 Citations (Scopus)8 Downloads (Pure)
Wingfield, C., 20 Oct 2017, In: World Archaeology. 49, 5, p. 594-607 14 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen Access8 Citations (Scopus)
‘Scarcely more than a Christian trophy case’? The global collections of the London Missionary Society museum (1814–1910)Wingfield, C., 1 Mar 2017, In: Journal of the History of Collections. p. 109-128 20 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile10 Citations (Scopus)30 Downloads (Pure)
Wingfield, C., 8 Sep 2023, Planet for our future: How do we adapt to a transforming world?. Paranada, J. & Tothill, V. (eds.). Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, p. 94-101
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › ChapterOpen AccessFile