Sarah Worden is Curator of African Collections with a particular interest in textiles and the role of clothing and dress in the expression of identity.

Curators Sarahworden 190PxAs a mature student Sarah studied for her BA in Art History, Archaeology and Anthropology and a Masters in Advanced Studies in the Arts of Africa, Americas and Oceania in Norwich at the University of East Anglia. Her doctorate considering the production and consumption of elaborate dress in Nigerian Hausa society, ‘Robes of Honour: Hausa Textiles in the Liverpool Museum’ was completed at UEA in 2005.

In 2006 Sarah was appointed Assistant Curator for Africa in the Department of World Cultures and in 2008 Sarah became the first Curator of African collections at National Museums Scotland. Since her appointment Sarah has continued research into the Hausa textile collections at National Museums Scotland, contributing to a publication ‘The Emergence of Hausa Identity: History and Religion’ in 2010.

Textiles, clothing and dress remain a primary focus, and the collections inspire research of historic material and also contemporary forms of dress. Through donations and curatorial fieldwork the contemporary textiles of east and central southern Africa are a focus for development, ensuring that the range of cloth in this area of Africa is well represented in our collections.

Sarah is interested in developing curatorial partnerships and networks in Africa. Since 2009 an international partnerships collaboration with Museums of Malawi at Chichiri Museum, Blantyre has engaged museum staff in the exchange of ideas, collections knowledge and museum skills. In 2013, following her role as curator of the David Livingstone bicentenary exhibition at National Museum fo Scotland she has worked in an advisory role developing a Livingstone display at Chichiri Museum. It is hoped that future project plans may bring both interest strands together again as a project researching contemporary textiles in Malawi is explored.


Selected publications and conference papers

  1. 2013. Worden, S. & G.N. Swinney, Exhibiting Livingstone: A Life and Legacy on Display, Scottish Geographical Journal special issue (in press).
  2. 2012. Worden, S., Ed. David Livingstone: Man, Myth and Legacy, National Museums Scotland Enterprises Publications, Edinburgh.
  3. 2010. Worden, S., Clothing and Identity: How can museum collections of Hausa textiles contribute to understanding the notion of Hausa Identity? in A. Haour and  B. Rossi eds.‘The Emergence of Hausa Identity: History  and Religion’, Brill,  pp.213-234.
  4. 2013. Worden, S. ‘Exhibiting Livingstone’ at Imperial Obsessions: David Livingstone, Africa and World History - a Life and Legacy Reconsidered, International Academic Conference 19-21 April, Livingstone, Zambia.
  5. 2009. From the Missionary to the Museum: Historic and Contemporary Collecting in Africa presented at Museum Ethnographers Group. Annual Conference: Amateur Passions: Professional Practice, Bristol.

For further publications see: National Museums Scotland Research Repository.

Explore more

Blog posts by Sarah Worden

Explore our African collections with Senior Curator Dr Sarah Worden.

African Commemorative Textiles Project with Edinburgh College of Art 2016-17

This creative project opened up our African collections as an inspirational resource for students at Edinburgh College of Art.
Back to top