Alex Watson Jones

PhD student researching ‘British Collecting in Ethiopia 1769 to 1960: Explorers, Missionaries, Military Expeditions, and Royal Gifting’ at National Museums Scotland and the University of St Andrews. Funded by the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership’s Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium.

Latest blog posts

‘Collecting and Empire’ at the British Museum

Last month I visited the British Museum’s new ‘Collecting and Empire’ trail, which ‘shows the different, complex and sometimes controversial journeys of objects that would become part of the Museum collection’. I wrote up some of my thoughts for this month’s issue of Apollo Magazine, which you can read either in print or online here.

‘Maqdala 1868’ at the V&A

In 2017, while working as an Assistant Curator in the V&A’s Metalwork section, I was asked to curate a temporary display of the museum’s Ethiopian collections to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the battle at Maqdala in April 1868. This battle between British and Ethiopian forces was the culmination of the 1867-8 British Expedition…

About me

I am a museum curator and researcher currently working on a PhD under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme with the University of St Andrews and National Museums Scotland. My research focuses on NMS’s collections from Ethiopia, exploring the biographies of these objects and their journeys into the museum collection. There is an urgent need for museums to more rigorously interrogate the origins of their collections, and to understand what those objects can tell us about the historic and contemporary relationships between Britain and the rest of the world. Through this project, I hope to make a small but important contribution to that conversation.

This research follows on from four years spent working at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 2015-2019, where I held various roles including Assistant Curator of Metalwork and Director’s Researcher. My most significant project at the V&A was Maqdala 1868, a display of the museum’s Ethiopian collections including several looted objects that have been the subject of restitution claims for many years. My experience of curating this display has led me to my current PhD research and I take an active interest in the different ways that museums have begun to acknowledge the colonial and imperial histories of their collections, and to respond to calls for the restitution of cultural property.

Before joining the museum world I spent seven years working as a software engineer, before returning to university in 2014 to obtain an MSc in Museum Studies. My unusual route into the sector has given me a particular interest in the intersection of art, heritage and technology, and I continue to make use of my coding skills when carrying out my own research.