Erna Lilje

Erna Lilje

Dr. Erna Lilje is Curator Indigenous knowledge & material culture. Her work focuses on south coast New Guinea material culture. She pursues the idea that museum collections can tell us much more about the people who made and used the objects within them if we bring to bear a cross-disciplinary approach that encompasses present-day makers and cultural experts with a close study of the artefacts themselves. More recently Erna has begun to think about the role and ‘use’ of contemporary artists in ethnological museums.


Erna holds an honours degree in Visual Arts, Masters of Museum Studies and received a PhD in Archaeology from University of Sydney. She undertook her first postdoctoral post, as a research associate, at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge (2016-18) and was awarded a Newton Trust Research Fellowship (2018).


Portrait: Erna Lilje by Nick Saffell 2018

Recent work includes:

Assistant curator for A sea of islands: masterpieces from Oceania, Museum Volkenkunde (2020).

Lilje, E. and Clark, A., ‘Decolonizing strategies: doing research in ethnographic museums’, Journal of Museum Ethnography, no.32, 2019, pp.32-45.

Lilje, E. (2018) “Fibre skirts: continuity and change” in Pacific Presences: Oceanic art in European museums Vol.2, Sidestone Books p.13-23.

Curator of Swish: Carved belts & fibre skirts of Papua New Guinea, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge University (2017).