Madison  Leeson
Joined Meer in August 2022
Madison Leeson

I was born outside of Toronto, Canada, where I became interested in the potential of art, history, and culture for political legitimacy and community mobilization. I received my BFA in Criticism & Curatorial Practice from OCAD University, writing about the ways in which failure and success impact social development and our perceptions of ourselves.

I moved to Athens, Greece, in 2017 to pursue my Masters in Heritage Management. My work began to focus on museums and cultural institutions at the intersection of humanitarian issues, particularly the status of refugees and the impact of inflation and recession. I was also exposed to the illicit trade in antiquities and became interested in the “resource curse” which often plagues resource-rich but economically poor countries in the Mediterranean and Middle East. While in Greece, I consulted on the development of the collections-free Aeschylus Museum to celebrate the life of the ancient tragic playwright.

In 2019, I moved to Istanbul, Turkey, where my work took on a historical perspective, using archival research to trace developments in heritage management in the 20th century. In June of 2022, I graduated with my PhD in Archaeology and History of Art from Koç University. My doctoral dissertation considered local and state-level projects of heritage management in the Ottoman Empire and Iraq from the turn of the 20th century, focusing on how these campaigns articulated the ambitions of foreign, imperial powers as well as the goals of the rising Iraqi state. A key theme in my research was “cultural governance”, which describes the means through which various actors celebrate, sustain, or suppress cultural heritage for political purposes.

My research also tackles developments in museum studies and the role of objects in the manifestation of power. I have consulted on antiquities protection policy and institutional strategies to prevent the illicit trade in antiquities and have presented research at conferences in Canada, the United States, Vietnam, and Iraq. Other, ongoing research projects include work on UNESCO’s “Save Carthage” campaign of the 1970s, architectural heritage preservation in southern Iraq, and social network analyses on criminal networks in cultural goods trafficking.

I am currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Digital Humanities at the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology in Venice, Italy. I am grateful for this opportunity to combine my many interests – heritage management, antiquities protection, research, and innovative technologies – in support of the international RITHMS project to tackle the illicit antiquities trade.

Articles by Madison Leeson

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