The research carried out at the National Museums of World Culture is more often than not based on exhibition projects or other intermediary activities. This is something that we wish to develop further as besides the objects themselves, it is the direct contact with the public that makes our museums so unique as knowledge and research institutions.

Research at the museums of world culture

The development of knowledge was naturally structured around the geographical origin of museum collections as key historical elements and what these represented had to be interpreted from a perspective of space and time. We have, however, over the past few years, engaged the expertise of two globalisation researchers who will help us expanding our research activities. The ambition is to improve on our ability to work thematically and to ask questions relating to contemporary global issues.

Researchers at the National Museums of World Culture come from a diverse scientific background such as anthropology, archaeology, art history, ethnology and history of ideas and science. Through this breadth of scientific disciplines, we are in a unique position to initiate interdisciplinary projects, many of which are conducted in collaboration with colleagues at universities and museums around the world.


Helen Arfvidsson

Ongoing research projects

Democracy doesn’t exist – we make it!

The project is based on the witnessed decline of democracy in many countries today and is based on the collaboration between the Museums of World Culture with the democracy institute V-Dem at the University of Gothenburg. The aim is to explore how research institutes, cultural heritage institutions and civil society can work together to increase democratic engagement, with upper secondary school as the primary target group. The project has three main objectives: to develop a digital learning resource that makes V-Dem's research available, to collect objects and stories based on democracy, and method development. The Museums of World Culture is the main organizer. Partly financed by the Swedish National Heritage Board.

Read more in the The Swedish National Heritage Board FoU-catalogue

E-mail: Helen Arfvidsson


Anna Foka at Uppsala University, Department of ABM (archives, libraries, and museums) is the responsible researcher for this project carried out in collaboration with the National Museums of World Culture. In 2021, a study on distance learning is carried out, possibly with the help of virtual reality. Representatives from Google Arts & Culture, Europeana and the Swedish National Heritage Board are also part of the project. The project is based on the need in the cultural heritage sector to be inclusive and be able to meet tomorrow's audiences. It aims to investigate what museums and virtual learning processes can do to make digital cultural heritage more accessible.

More information available at Uppsala University website 

E-mail: Olof Tiderman

The Yaqui case

Repatriation is a present issue for museums around the world today. In this project, we concentrate on a specific case: the Yaqui people, a nation originating in Mexico that through deportation and war also ended up in the United States. Today they live on both sides of the border. An item that was given as a gift in 1934 and ended up in Sweden came into focus when a Yaqui representative from the US demanded it back a few years ago. But who owns the object? Yaquis in the USA? Yaquis in Mexico, where the symbolic and original group is located and where the objects come from? Could it be harmful to return the object to the Yaquis from the "wrong side", or to an area shattered by deep political social problems?

Read more in the The Swedish National Heritage Board FoU-catalogue

E-mail: Adriana Muñoz


In the shadow of the Anthropocene

I skuggan av Antropocen is a research and development project, funded by the National Heritage Board, dealing with how cultural history museums can develop an ecocritical museum pedagogy. It suggests a pedagogy that challenges established notions about human beings and our living environment. What other stories or perspectives could emerge in exhibitions or in the meeting between museum educators and groups?

Read more in the The Swedish National Heritage Board FoU-catalogue 

E-mail: Björn Lindgren

Objects of Culture and Science 

Ethnographic objects are understood as exemplars of culture, but they also capture traces of the time and place from which they emerged, making visible relationships between humans, non-humans and environments. This project picks up on such entanglements by exploring the potential for use of ethnographic objects in environmental research. Contemporary issues of ocean acidification, dying kelp forests and eroded coastlines for example come into focus through the case study of a 115-year-old Tasmanian shell necklace. The historic shells provide both cultural and scientific baseline data. By repositioning ethnographic objects as sources of cultural and scientific knowledge, this project explores the opportunity to invite Western scientists into museum storehouses and shines a light on non-Western knowledge systems in communities of origin. 

Main organizer is the University of Gothenburg. The project is financed by The Swedish Research Council.

E-mail: Aoife O’Brien

Digital repatriation of cultural heritage in the Global South: A model for open access to museum collections empowering indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon

This collaborative project has been granted funding to work for five years (2021-25) with the Brazilian collections at the Museum of World Culture, and to find a useful methodology for digital sharing with the involvement of local and indigenous people in the Amazon.

On September 18, 2018, the Museu Nacional burned down in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Amazon collection at VKM is one of the largest and most important ethnographic and archaeological collections from the region, outside Brazil. Following the catastrophic fire, the scientific, educational and aesthetic value of the collection has increased, for researchers and the general public as well as for the indigenous and local peoples of the Amazon.

The overall aim of this project is to create a framework for digital sharing of cultural heritage collections from museums to indigenous peoples. The project hopes to find a methodology and practice that will also be useful for other collections.

E-mail: Adriana Muñoz