Institute of Archaeology


From shells to ivory: Hugh Nevill's colonial collecting in Sri Lanka

01 May 2019, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

From shells to ivory: Hugh Nevill's colonial collecting in Sri Lanka

Sushma Jansari (The British Museum) will give a seminar organised by the History of Archaeology Research Network at the UCL Institute of Archaeology on 1 May.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Amara Thornton – Institute of Archaeology


Room 612
Institute of Archaeology
31-34 Gordon Square
United Kingdom


The Sri Lankan collections at the British Museum are among the largest and most wide-ranging held outside the island nation. Unusually, over half of them come from a single collector: Hugh Nevill (1847-97) of the Ceylon Civil Service. By the time of Nevill’s arrival in 1865, the whole of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) had been a British Crown Colony for almost fifty years. The thirty years Nevill spent living and working across Sri Lanka coincided with a marked increase of interest in the island’s history and culture, and he was a key figure associated with this research.

In this talk, Dr Jansari will present the starting point of her research into Nevill and his important collection of objects. Firstly, she locates Nevill within the overall context of his family’s long-standing interest in history and collecting in the UK and India, thereby revealing that his large-scale collecting was part of a longer family tradition and not a spontaneous reaction to his arriving in Sri Lanka. Secondly, she will explore the dispersal of Nevill’s vast collections across the UK and Ireland to institutions including the British Museum, British Library, V&A, Natural History Museum, National Museum of Ireland, National Museum of Scotland, and National Museum of Wales.

Further details

About the Speaker

Dr Sushma Jansari

Project Curator - Asian Ethnographic and South Asia Collections at The British Museum

More about Dr Sushma Jansari