Global Earth Matters - Gold - Research Center for Material Culture
2 November 2016

Global Earth Matters - Gold

Seminar | 1-2 Nov 2016 | RCMC

Materiality plays an important role in shaping our understanding of the world around us. Global Earth Matters: Mining, Materiality and the Museum is a series of seminars that seek to re-center scholarly interest in the materiality of objects, opening onto broader questions of labor and making, skills and craftsmanship, on issues surrounding the (exploitative) economies from which these objects emerge. 

Mining, Materiality and the Museum

Bringing together artists, academics and curators into interdisciplinary conversations, we want to push the conversation about museums objects beyond questions of aesthetic quality or (cultural) use, to critically explore the relationship between the materials from which these objects are made and the social world within which they are created or function. By retraining our gaze beyond a focus on cultural groups that museum objects are to represent towards a thinking of the materiality of the objects themselves within a broader economy of innovation and making, labor and imperial enterprise, we want to foreground the relationship between the materiality of mining practices and the diversity of cultural understanding about the earth.

After the successful workshop in July this year on bauxite and aluminum, the second seminar in the series focuses on the history and materiality of gold. The lure and luster of gold were important drivers in building empires based on conquest and slavery. How, we will ask, have the qualities and values attributed to gold contributed to ‘worldmaking’ and ‘worldbreaking’ processes? How do we understand gold – as it is mined, crafted, used as adornment and banked upon - in relation to glitter and gloom of global connections? Distinctive features of gold such as malleability, durability and denseness allow it to be the perfect material for artistic crafting of jewelry and ornaments, whereas in the form of gold bars it appears an unchangeable intrinsic foundation for money matters. How is gold as the materialization of wealth and finance part of practices of display but also of concealment? How can we combine perspectives on political economy and cultural approaches in our analysis of linkages between sites of production and consumption? 

Global Earth Matters: Mining, Materiality and the Museum - Gold invites a diverse group of makers and thinkers with an expertise in materiality to explore these and other questions around the global interactions of gold. The Global Earth Matters – Gold seminar will be the starting point to develop content for our future exhibition Gold, which will be held in 2019.


  • Rosalind Morris (Columbia University)
  • Elizabeth Emma Ferry (Brandeis University)


  • Edouard Duval (independent artist)
  • Natasha Ginwala (independent curator)
  • Nii Obodai (independent photographer)
  • Patricia Pisters (University of Amsterdam)
  • Fransje Brinkgreve (Curator of Indonesia, at National Museum of World Cultures)
  • Mirjam Shatanawi (Curator of Middle East and North Africa at National Museum of World Cultures)
  • Wouter Welling (Curator of Contemporary Art at National Museum of World Cultures)
  • Pim Westerkamp (Curator of Indonesia, at National Museum of World Cultures)

Special program

  • Material Talks: discussing and viewing objects from the collections;
  • What’s in My Phone? Workshop with Closing the Loop; 
  • Gold Rushes: film programme curated by Beeld voor Beeld.


Global Earth Matters is a collaboration between the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University and the Research Center for Material Culture and is supported by Leiden Global Interactions.

Collaborating partners: Global Interactions - Leiden University