Felicity Bodenstein

Dr. Felicity Bodenstein is an art historian working in France, specialized in the history of archaeological and ethnographic collections social, economic and cultural processes involved in their creation, classification, interpretation, display and reception during the 19th and the 20th century. After completing a Ph.D. on the history of the collections of the department of coins and medals at the National Library in Paris in the 19th century, she now works on questions of representation in the display of contested, translocated objects. Her on-going research since 2015 is dedicated to understanding the global destiny of the Benin pieces looted in 1897 by British Naval forces in present-day Nigeria and considers the value transformations and narratives that have accompanied their initial looting and the successive displacements through the market and through collections. She is also interested in the long history of the restitution debates that they are currently part of. Her research was supported by post-doctoral fellowships from the Max Planck Institut at the Kunsthistoriches Institut in Florence, by the musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris and by the Technische Univeristät in Berlin; where she worked for two years in the project translocations, piloted by Professor Bénédicte Savoy. Since 2019, she is a lecturer in the history of museums and heritage studies at Sorbonne Université, Paris.
She is also a principal investigator of the digital humanities project, financed by the Ernest von Siemens foundation, “Digital Benin” (https://digital-benin.org/) that will bring together data from the close to 200 museums holding pieces from the 1897 expedition in their collections.