German Historical Institute London

17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
United Kingdom

Phone: Tel. +44-(0)20-7309 2050



Dr Mirjam Brusius

Colonial and Global History

+44 020 7309

Mirjam Brusius joined the GHIL in 2017. She focuses on the circulation of objects and images in and between Europe, the Middle East, and India; from the movement of ancient artefacts in indigenous contexts in the Ottoman Empire and Persia into the racial hierarchies of Western museums, to the trajectories of photographic technologies out of Europe and into the Islamicate world. Her projects expand traditional fields of heritage studies by combining critical material culture research with an understanding of global and colonial history, cross-cultural ‘object biographies’, and STS (Science and Technology Studies).

Research Project

Empire, Heritage, and the Decolonization Debate

A group of seven workmen at Palmyra moving a massive capital on a wooden sledge by pulling it over wooden poles by means of a rope wrapped around the capital.

This project gives a transregional perspective on museums, collecting, and fieldwork as an imperial enterprise incorporating the British Empire, France, and Prussia. I show how emerging survey methods and disciplines such as archaeology were instrumentalized for political, orientalist, and racial discourse in the increasingly contested landscape of the Ottoman Empire. This project aims to develop directions for further debate that recognize cultural differences in order to pay attention to the manifold non-elite, bottom-up, and indigenous engagements with the material past. At stake are material biographies of empire and the questions they raise not only about historical experiences, but also about race, heritage, and the politics of knowledge-making in the contemporary world.

Research Project

The Spaces of Photography

Image of a room of the centenary photography exhibition, held at Lacock Abbey, 1934, which depicts several tables and wall covered with a selection of Fox Talbot's photographs

This project explores not only the actual photographs, but also their detachment from their original archival context, their circulation on the art market, and their display across different types of museums and institutions in order to determine the disciplinary framework for studying early photographic specimens, whether scientific, industrial, or colonial. The project also intends to help shift the centre of gravity in the history of photography – traditionally a Eurocentric field – eastwards by researching photographic centres such as Tehran and Istanbul in the 19th century and their impact on the Middle East and Europe.

Further projects

Mirjam Brusius is also one of the initiators of the project ‘100 Histories of 100 Worlds in One Object’.


Responsibilities at the GHIL

  • Research Fellow in Colonial and Global History

Research Interests

  • History of museums, collecting, archaeology and fieldwork in imperial contexts
  • Cultural heritage and preservation practices
  • History of photography
  • History of colonial science

Education and Academic Background


A. W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford


Postdoctoral Fellow, Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University (funded by the Fulbright Commission and Volkswagen Foundation)


Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science


Postdoctoral Fellow, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut


DAAD-Fellow, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge (as part of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award in conjunction with the British Library)


M.A. in Art History, Cultural Studies and Musicology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (exchange at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 2004)

Fellowships, Grants, and Scholarships


The Italian Academy of Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University, Weinberg Fellow


Berlin School of Muslim Cultures and Societies and TOPOI Berlin, Visiting Fellow


Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage Berlin, Visiting Fellow


University of Melbourne, Dyason Fellow


Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, Visiting Fellow


Fulbright Foundation, Postdoctoral Grant for Harvard University


Fellowship, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Art and Architecture (MIT and Harvard University)


Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Research Grant


Yale Center for British Art and Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Visiting Fellow


British Academy, Small Research Grant


Gerda Henkel Foundation, Doctoral grant


AHRC Doctoral Award


Honours and Distinctions


Jacob Bronowski Award Lecture for Science and the Arts, British Science Association


Maurice Daumas Prize of theInternational Committee for the History of Technology for best article on the History of Technology 2018: ‘Photography’s Fits and Starts’, History of Photography, 40/3 (2016)


Aby Warburg Prize for Early Career Researchers




Monographs and Edited Volumes

Fotografie und museales Wissen: William Henry Fox Talbot, das Altertum und die Absenz der Fotografie (Berlin, 2015)

(ed.), Living Through the Wende. Housing and the Home c. 1989, Special Issue, German Historical Institute London Bulletin, 43/1 (2021).

with K. Singh (eds), Museum Storage and Meaning: Tales from the Crypt (London, 2018)

(ed.), What is Preservation? Diversifying Engagement with the Middle East’s material Past, Round Table, Review of Middle East Studies, 51/2 (2017)

with T. Dunkelgrün (eds), Photography, Antiquity, Scholarship, Special Issue, History of Photography, 40/3 (2016)

with K. Dean and C. Ramalingam (eds), William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography (New Haven/London, 2013)

Articles and Chapters


‘Dekolonisiert die Museumsinsel. Museumsnarrative, Rassentheorie und radikale Chancen einer zu stillen Debatte’, in A. Epple, T. Sandkühler, J. Zimmerer (eds): Geschichtskultur durch Restitution? Ein Kunst-Historikerstreit (Köln 2021), 125-44

‘On Connecting the Ancient and the Modern Middle East in Museums and Public Space’, in Sharon McDonald, Katarzyna Puzon and Mirjam Shatanawi (eds.), Islam and Heritage in Europe (London, forthcoming), 183–201

‘Hitting two Birds with One Stone: An Afterword on Archeology and the History of Science’, History of Science, 55/3 (2017), 383–91

‘Introduction: What is Preservation?’, Review of Middle East Studies, 51/2 (2017), 177–82

‘The Field in the Museum: Puzzling out Babylon in Berlin’, Osiris, 32 (2017), 264–85

‘Photography’s Fits and Starts: The Search for Antiquity and its Image in Victorian Britain’, History of Photography, 40/3 (2016), 250–66

‘Towards a History of Preservation Practices: Archaeology, Heritage and the History of Science’, Round Table on ‘Science Studies’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 47/3 (2015), 574–9

Reviews and Miscellaneous Publications


Conference review of 100 Histories of 100 Worlds in One Object. University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica (9–13 Dec. 2019), Bulletin of the German Historical Institute London, 42/1 (2020)

Conference review of Ruins of Preservation. German Historical Institute London (11–12 July 2019), Bulletin of the German Historical Institute London, 42/1 (2020) (Read here)

Review of S. Sheehi, The Arab Imago: A Social History of Portrait Photography, Critical Inquiry, 45/2 (2018), 545–6 (Read here)

Review of A. Behdad, Camera Orientalis: Reflections on Photography of the Middle East, Burlington Magazine, 160 (Aug., 2018), 705

Review of ‘Salt&Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860’, Tate Britain, Fotogeschichte, 35/137 (2015), 59–60

with C. Ramalingam, Conference review of William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond photography, University of Cambridge (24–26 June 2010), H-Soz-u-Kult, 11 May 2011 (Read here)

Review of H. Bredekamp, B. Schneider and V. Dünkel (eds.), Das Technische Bild: Kompendium zu einer Stilgeschichte wissenschaftlicher Bilder, British Journal of the History of Science, 42 (2009), 611–2

‘Noch einmal von vorne: Drei neue Publikationen zur frühen Fotografie’, Reviews of G. Batchen, William Henry Fox Talbot; K. Jacobson, Odalisques & Arabesques: Orientalist Photography 1839-1925; and R. Taylor, Impressed by Light: British Photography from Paper Negatives, 1840–1860, Rundbrief Fotografie Neue Folge Heft 61 (March 2009), 19–23

‘Kunst, Nicht-Kunst’, Review of the exhibition catalogue, P.H. Emerson, National Media Museum, Bradford, Fotogeschichte, 27/104 (2007), 73–74

Journalism and Outreach

 ‘Vielsagender Sturz einer Sklavenhändler-Statue: In Bristol beginnt der Prozess gegen Black-Lives-Matter-Demonstrant*innen’, 8 Feb. 2021, SWR2 am Morgen (Listen here)

‘Hand in Hand. Antikensammlungen waren mit der Rassetheorie eng verwoben. Die Museen sollten sich dieser Geschichte stellen. Das betrifft auch die Personalpolitik: Glaubwürdig sind Museen erst, wenn sie Forschungsstellen mit Zuwanderern besetzen’, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 21, 26 Jan. 2020, 9 (Read here)

‘Das Humboldtforum ist nur der Anfang. Imperialistische Zerstörung und museale Konservierung waren schon immer Komplizen. Doch wie viel kritische Sammlungsgeschichte ertragen Museen, ohne sich abzuschaffen?’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 6, 27 Sept. 2017, 12 (Read here)

‘The Middle East Heritage Debate is becoming Worryingly Colonial’, The Conversation, 25 Apr. 2016 (Read here)

‘The many Inventions of Photography’, The Guardian, 22 Dec. 2014 (Read here)

For a full publication list, see