Alice Lowson

Alice Lowson


After graduating with a BA in History and the Study of Religions from the School of Oriental and African Studies and an MA in Archaeology from the University of Exeter, I set off to South Asia in 2010 to pursue my interest in the history, culture, and archaeology of the region. Whilst there I worked on a voluntary basis with the UKIERI funded ‘Pioneering Metallurgy’ project at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, the 2011 West Bengal Heritage Survey commissioned by INTACH and headed by Tathagata Neogi, and helped to build a model reconstruction of a monsoon wind powered steel furnace on behalf of Dr Gill Juleff, to serve as a permanent installation at the National Museum of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

During my time in Bangalore my friendship with Dr Smriti Haricharan, a research fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, eventually led to our collaboration on a Nehru Trust-V&A Museum funded research project entitled ‘Recording Portable Antiquities and Facilitating a Shared Heritage’, and ultimately served as the inspiration for my PhD research.

I am currently an AHRC funded PhD student on the Exeter-NIAS (Bangalore) split-site programme, and my research area is Tamil Nadu in South India. In addition to my PhD research I have recently had the opportunity to lead a group of 10 undergraduate students on a field trip Bangalore Jain University as part of the Grand Challenges programme, to explore the theme of ‘Cultural Patrimony and its Preservation’.


I am researching the contemporary trade and collection of antiques and antiquities in Tamil Nadu, South India. My aims are twofold: 1) to map the main types and networks of this type of trade in the region, including the various ways objects are exchanged, consumed and managed, and 2) to explore the concept of the ‘antique’ as a form of cultural heritage, in terms of the meanings and values it entails within this cultural context.

Using a biographical approach which focuses on the stories behind the objects themselves I will explore the nature of antique value and see how the same object can hold different meanings and values in different situations. By focusing on the actual ways in which different people interpret, use and value heritage objects, rather than seeing the issue in terms of property and ownership rights, I hope that this research will contribute valuable data and insights to the on-going international debate regarding the management of movable cultural heritage.


Lowson, A. & Haricharan S., 2013, Sharing India’s Past: recording portable antiquities and facilitating a shared heritage. In: Heritage and Us, Year 2, Issue 1, pp. 6-12


Accepted as paper: Lowson, A., 2014, ‘Collecting the Past: the changing role of portable antiquities in Tamil Nadu’, International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) ‘Cultural Heritage, Environment, Ecology and Inter-Asian Interactions, Nalanda University, Rajgir

Poster: Lowson, A, Haricharan, S. & Wootton, D., 2012, ‘Addressing current concerns in the recording and reporting of portable antiquities’, European Association for South Asian Archaeology and Art, Paris

Paper: Haricharan, S. & Lowson, A., 2011, ‘Viability of Adapting the Portable Antiquities Scheme in the Indian Context’, First International Conference of the International Association for Asian Heritage, Colombo