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Fiona P. McDonald

Fiona McDonald


End Date: June 2014

Subject: Material Culture

PhD Candidate
Material Culture and Visual Anthropology
University College London (expected completion early-2014)

Graduate Specialization - Maori Studies
University of Auckland, New Zealand (May 2007)

Master of Arts (History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture)
University of Alberta, Canada (May 2006)

PhD project

Working Title:

Charting Material Memories: an ethnography of visual and material transformations of woollen blankets in Canada, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the United States

Primary Supervisor: Professor Susanne Kuechler
Secondary Supervisor: Professor Christopher Pinney

Interests and Research

My current project further develops on research started in my Master of Arts and Graduate Specialization studies that looked at trade blankets in Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand. This project is a combination of an historic and contemporary material ethnography of the material nature and uses of woollen (trade) blankets that were produced in the United Kingdom, and a direct examination of the pluralistic histories of these objects when re-worked and recycled by contemporary artists. This project considers why artists and contemporary cultural practitioners use blankets, and more specifically questions how and why certain material culture and narratives are consumed at specific historical moments—how does materiality, memory, and consciousness affect these trends? And, what is the knowledge that is generated from the social relations that coalesce around blankets?

This research is supported by the:
Overseas Research Scholarship
Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund (Canadian High Commission London)
Fred Sandback Archives (Private Donor Graduate Award)

Collaborative Curatorial Projects

Ethnographic Terminalia Presents

October 2013—New York City, NY, USA. “Seeing Ethnography with Zoe Bray”. Invited installation project for the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History (Grand Gallery)

Ethnographic Terminalia Exhibition – Co-Curator

December 2014—Washington, D.C, USA (Location TBA)
November 2013—Chicago, IL, USA (Arts Incubator at Washington Park—UChicago)
November 2012—San Francisco, CA, USA (SOMArts Cultural Center)
November 2011—Montréal, Canada (Eastern Bloc Center for New Media and Interdisciplinary Art)
November 2010—New Orleans, LA, USA (The Du Mois Gallery)
December 2009—Philadelphia, PA, USA (Crane Arts)


Journal Articles, Book Reviews, and Book Chapters

  • Comparative Book Review of: (1) “Museums and Communities, Curators, Collections and Collaboration.” Edited by Viv Golding and Wayne Modest. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013 | (2) “Gallery as Community: Art, Education, Politics.” London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2013. Curator: The Museum Journal. Spring 2014.
  • Book Chapter—“The woollen blanket and its imagined value(s): material transformations of woollen blankets in contemporary art” in Living in a Material World (Edited by Susanne Kuechler and Adam Drazin). Prepared. Forthcoming 2014.
  • Book Chapter—An Unexpected History Lesson: meeting ‘colonial girls’ through knitting, weaving, spinning, and cups of tea. Palgrave Macmillan (Edited: Michelle Smith and Kristine Moruzi). July 2014.
  • Book Review of “Distributed Objects: Meaning and Matter after Alfred Gell.” Edited by Liana Chua and Mark Elliot. New York and London: Berghahn Books, 2013. Material Word Blog. January 2014 (
  • Peer Reviewed Article—Woollen Blankets in Contemporary Art: Mutability, Mobility, and Materiality in the work of Sonny Assu. Forthcoming Material Culture Review Journal—Objects in Motion (Autumn 2013).
  • Book Review—Craft/Art : Art\Craft—Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, ed. Maira Elena Buszek. Duke University Press, 2011. June 2013 Museum Worlds.
  • Book Review—(Re)Staging the Art Museum. ed. Tone Hansen. Henie Onstad Art Centre, Norway. 2011. June 2013 Museum Worlds.

Co-Authored (alphabetical order):

  • “Ethnographic Terminalia: Process, Collaboration, Community”. Craig Campbell, Kate Hennessy, Fiona P. McDonald Trudi Lynn Smith, Stephanie Takagarawa. Anthropology News: Series on Collaborations. October 2013.
  • “Introduction” Kate Hennessy, Fiona P. McDonald, Trudi Lynn Smith, Stephanie Takagarawa, Craig Campbell, Maria Brodine. Visual Anthropology Review (peer-reviewed). Vol. 27. Issue 1. Spring 2011.
  • “27 Works.” Kate Hennessy, Fiona P. McDonald, Trudi Lynn Smith, Stephanie Takagarawa. Visual Anthropology Review (peer-reviewed). Vol. 27. Issue 1. Spring 2011.

On-Line works

  • “Art and Anthropology” Interview with WebsEdgeEducation TV. American Anthropological Association Meetings, Chicago, IL. October 2013.
  • “Plastic” Art: The work of Maika’i Tubbs.” Material World Blog. September 2013.
  • “Collaborating and Curating.” University College London Anthropology News (2011).
  • “Charting Material Memories.” Material World Blog. December 2010.

Exhibition Essays and Catalogues

  • Ethnographic Terminalia Exhibition Catalogues (six catalogues, 2009-2013). In production.
  • Dispersant Exhibition Essay, “Materialising the Unseen” for the OuterEdge Project at Sanderson Gallery (New Zealand) by Meliors Simms. April 2012. Link to Essay and [PDF]
  • Exhibition Essay, “Lilong: a sensory reading of place.” Lilong (Video Installation) by Valentina Ferrandes at the Muratcentoventidue | Arte Contemporanea (Bari, Italy). Published January 2012.
  • Field Guide Exhibition Essay, “Visual Iterability” for Finding Aid art installation by Trudi Lynn Smith. SAAG Gallery (Canada). June 2010.

Works in Progress: Articles, Book Reviews, Book Chapters, etc...

  • Book Review of “Multisensory Museum: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Touch, Sound, Smell, Memory, and Space.” Edited by Nina Levent and ‎Alvaro Pascual-Leone. New York City: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014.
  • Article—Recycling the 18th Century: framing an epoch as a concept through contemporary art in Aotearoa New Zealand. Prepared and Ready for Submission (2011).

Sample of Public Presentations and Seminars

  • Mead Dialogues: Makers and Scholars Lounge. American Museum of Natural History. October 2013.
  • 2013/2014 Wissenshaftskolle du Berlin Research Residency and Seminar (Part 1: July 29-August 9 2013).
  • The Politics of Materiality. The New School, New York City, New York (USA). TITLE: Political MaterialsA Case Study of Woolen Blankets in Contemporary Art in Canada and the USA (April 2013)
  • College Arts Association. New York City, New York (USA). Pacific Arts Association Sponsored Session. Session Chair. TITLE: The Home, The Museum, and The Gallery—illuminating the nexus between identity, materiality, and visual culture in the Pacific (February 2013)
  • Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium. Textiles & Politics. Washington, DC (USA). TITLE: Woolen Trade Blankets in Contemporary Art: tracing the personal and social politics of art and material culture in Canada, the USA, and Aotearoa New Zealand (17 September 2012)
  • Colonial Girlhood/Colonial Girls Conference and Workshop. University of Melbourne (Australia). TITLE: An Unexpected History Lesson: A Presentation of Memory, Femininity, and Materiality in Aotearoa New Zealand (15 June 2012)
  • Royal Anthropological Institute—Anthropology in the World Conference. The woollen blanket and its value(s): a material ethnography of things, objects, and art (10 June 2012)
  • 2012 Otsego Institute for Native American Art Workshop and Seminars—Native American Art: The Being of Objects. (May 2012). Invited.
  • University of Oxford—Pitt Rivers Museum Seminar Series 2011 (Oxford, UK): “Charting Material Memories in the Pacific” (28 October 2011). Invited.
  • International Visual Sociologist Association Conference (Vancouver, BC, Canada): “Archive as Practice: A Panel Discussion”. (7 July 2011). Invited Discussant.
  • 7th International Conference on Small Island Cultures (Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia): Recycling and Tourist Art: a presentation of contemporary artists use tourist ‘kitsch’ and vintage goods in Aotearoa/New Zealand today (13 June 2011).
  • Concordia University (CEREV LAB)—Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Funded Workshop. Curating Difficult Knowledge Workshop. Workshop Co-Facilitator. 16-17 May 2011. (Invited)
  • Native American History Month Lecture Series at the Sealaska Heritage Institute (Juneau, Alaska, USA): Title: Charting Material Memories: an ethnography of visual and material responses to woolen trade blankets in the Pacific Northwest of North America and New Zealand (25 October 2010).
  • [Record] [Create]: Oral History in Art, Craft, and Design Conference (Oral History Society (UK) and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England): Title: An Unexpected History Lesson: Oral Histories and the Fiber Arts in Aotearoa/New Zealand (July 2010)
  • Recycling, Luxury, and Waste in the Long Eighteenth Century Conference (Université Paris Diderot, Paris, France): Title: Weaving and Wool: Materiality through Woollen Blankets in Eighteenth Century Aotearoa/New Zealand (June 2010)
  • CASCA/AES 2009 Conference (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada): Title: Locating an Outsider's Identity-Indigenous Knowledge in Western Frameworks (May 2009)
  • Western Springs College (Auckland, New Zealand) Satellite Lecture with interactive presentation (Year 10 Philosophy)-What is Art: Theories of Aesthetics (March 2009)
  • The New Zealand Costume and Textile Section of the Auckland Museum Institute (The Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand) Migration and Adaptation Conference: Title: Weaving Connections: Examining the interconnectedness of European Trade Blanket Patterns in to Maori Weaving (March 2007)
  • Guest Lecture Presented-Linguistic Anthropology 489/589 (Undergraduate/Graduate Seminar): Title: Ethnography of Communication - Discussing the Communicative Behaviors of Gossip and Field Work (February 2007)
  • University of Auckland-Department of Art History Graduate Lecture Series 2006: Title: Taonga Abroad: Reconciling 'severed links' through a contemporary art installation at The Pitt Rivers Museum (20 July 2006)


Board of Directors—Society of Visual Anthropology
Visiting Scholar (Anthropology) New York University (NYU) (NYC, USA) (2012-2014)
Visiting Research Fellow with Massey University (Wellington, NZ) (2011)
Visiting Scholar with Sealaska Heritage Institute (2010)
Ethnographic Terminalia International Curatorial Collective (2009-present)
International Visual Sociologist Association (not active 2014)
Canadian Society of Anthropologists (CASCA)/ American Ethnological Society (AES) (not active 2014)
American Anthropological Association
Pacific Arts Association
College Arts Association
Royal Anthropological Institute
Costume and Textile-Auckland Museum, New Zealand (not active 2014)
Textile Society of America
Zonta International (New Zealand)

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