The British Museum’s Collections

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©Trustees of the British Museum

The Latin America and Caribbean collection contains approximately 62,000 objects, of which just 0.6% is currently on display to the public.


This platform illustrates the various research projects that engage with the remaining 99.4% of the collection. Many of the objects held in anthropology museums were collected for scientific purposes. Anthropologists and curators put together comparative collections from which they have extrapolated grand historical narratives. These objects have since been regarded as holding immutable value and their importance has been linked to their capacity to accumulate knowledge through time. 

This diagram shows changes in acquisition trends since the first Latin American object entered the British Museum’s collection in 1757. Going beyond the display and spectacle of the traditional museum space, Centre projects carried out with the collections in storage expose the colonial legacies of acquisition, research and exhibitionary priorities that are highlighted in this infographic. The Centre hopes to counter these legacies, which are also associated with the anonymity imposed on the societies and individuals that these collections seek to represent.

The Centre co-develops projects that contest these assumptions to show that the objects in the museum’s collections have shifting and evolving meanings, and that their histories reflect political realities. The Centre provides physical access to our collections, and the digitisation of this work has the potential to reach and engage audiences worldwide.



SDCELAR acquires contemporary artworks into the British Museum’s Americas collection. We think that critical and creative practices such as material culture responses to collections can mobilise challenging and multilayered narratives. These artistic practices can reflect alternative interpretations to those established by curators and academics. Also, the works produced can be interpreted in multiple ways by diverse audiences, allowing for continual production and exchange of knowledge.

These artworks have been acquired to facilitate dialogue and stress social politics as well as culturally specific knowledge.


Collections on display


The public may view collections from Latin America and the Caribbean on display in three galleries at the British Museum: the Wellcome Trust Gallery (room 24), the Mexico Gallery (room 27) and the Enlightenment Gallery (room 1). Evoking 18th-century cabinets of curiosity, a visit to the Enlightenment Gallery includes a selection of objects from the Caribbean and South America and offers a review of the Museum’s founding collecting practices in the context of European colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade.

The Wellcome Trust Gallery centres around the notions of Living and Dying, exploring the multiple ways that people across the globe understand and experience life and death. Here the visitor may find examples of Latin American and Caribbean collections, ranging from Pre-Columbian gold objects from Colombia and Wixárika (Huichol) textiles from Mexico to Amazonian and Andean materials that feature in two central cases in the gallery.

Amazonia Case – Room 24

© Ana Blumenkron

Launched in 2019, the Amazonia Case centres around Relating to animals, showcasing how Amazonian societies relate not only to animals, but also to the environment and how this intricate relationship is reflected and mediated by the objects displayed. This case combines ethnographic materials and artwork from the 19th century onwards with works from contemporary Indigenous artists, such as Feliciano Lana (Dessana-Tukano) and Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe (Yanomami), prompting the visitor to reflect upon modern-day issues that continue to impact Amazonian peoples to this day, such as displacement/encroachment and the loss of traditional knowledge. From the power of feathers to the many ways of violence of the Rubber Boom, this showcase highlights the objects’ capacity of healing and rescuing traditional practices.


Peru and Andean World Case – Room 24

© Magdalena Araus Sieber

Inaugurated in November 2023, this display showcases how different cultures in modern-day Peru have been living with land and sea for more than four thousand years. Through the perspectives of artists, farmers, rulers, seafarers and other local inhabitants, you may discover how communities from the Central Andean region have kept their environment at the heart of their well-being and for the protection and survival of their ways of living – or ‘good living’. You can watch a video and listen to the case’s curator Cecilia Pardo to learn more about the Peru display and Andean collection. For more information, visit the British Museum website.


Mexico Gallery – Room 27

Tonindeye Codex (Zouche-Nuttall) ©Trustees of the British Museum

Tonindeye Codex (Zouche-Nuttall) ©Trustees of the British Museum

This room showcases the distinctive regional cultures that flourished in what is now Mexico from around 2000 BC until the Spanish invasion of the Aztec Empire in 1521. The works on display range from relief sculpture to turquoise mosaics, gold filigree and jade figures as well as painted ceramics associated with the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Mixtec, and Veracruz peoples and cultures. Amongst the many highlights of this gallery is the Tonindeye Codex, a rare example of a Prehispanic codex that beautifully depicts Mixtec genealogical and historical narratives between the 10th and 15th centuries AD. You can read more about the Mexico Gallery at the British Museum website and take a virtual tour with Google Arts & Cultures.

Publications related to women’s and maternal health with Wixárika communities by the author of this exhibition


Gamlin, Jennie B. (2013)
Shame as a barrier to health seeking among indigenous Huichol migrant labourers: An interpretive approach of the “violence continuum” and “authoritative knowledge”
Social Science and Medicine 97 75-81

Gamlin, Jennie B. (2023)
Wixárika Practices of Medical Syncretism: An Ontological Proposal for Health in the Anthropocene
Medical Anthropology Theory 10 (2) 1-26

Gamlin, Jennie B. (2020)
“You see, we women, we can’t talk, we can’t have an opinion…”. The coloniality of gender and childbirth practices in Indigenous Wixárika families
Social Science and Medicine 252, 112912

Jennie Gamlin and David Osrin (2020)
Preventable infant deaths, lone births and lack of registration in Mexican indigenous communities: health care services and the afterlife of colonialism
Ethnicity and Health 25 (7)

Jennie Gamlin and Seth Holmes (2018)
Preventable perinatal deaths in indigenous Wixárika communities: an ethnographic study of pregnancy, childbirth and structural violence BMC
Pregnancy and Childbirth 18 (Article number 243) 2018

Gamlin, Jennie B. and Sarah J Hawkes (2015)
Pregnancy and birth in an Indigenous Huichol community: from structural violence to structural policy responses
Culture, health and sexuality 17 (1)