Elizabeth Edwards is a visual and historical anthropologist who is currently Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor at VARI (the Victoria and Albert Museum Research Centre) in London. Until 2005 she was Curator of Photographs and Lecturer in Visual Anthropology at Pitt Rivers Museum/University of Oxford before leaving for academic posts. Now retired, she is Curator Emerita at the Museum, Emeritus Professor of Photographic History at De Montfort University, Leicester, and Honorary Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University College London.
Specialising in the social and material practices of photography, she has worked extensively on the relationships between photography, anthropology and history. Her monographs and edited works include Anthropology and Photography (1992), Raw Histories (2001), Photographs Objects Histories (2004), Sensible Objects (2006) and The Camera as Historian: Amateur Photographers and Historical Imagination 1885-1912 (2012), and, over the years, over 90 essays in books, journals and exhibition catalogues on topics as diverse as photography and evolutionary theory and photography and sound.
She also has a long-standing interest in photographic cultures of museums and libraries, and has written extensively on the topic. In 2014 she was given a lifetime achievement award by the Society of Visual Anthropology (American Anthropological Association) and a Photographic Studies lifetime achievement award from the Royal Anthropological Institute in 2017. She is on the Advisory Board of the National Museum of Science and Media (Science Museum Group) and has recently been appointed to the International Scientific Advisory Board for the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence.
In 2015 she was the first photographic specialist to be elected a Fellow of the British Academy. She is currently working on two projects: one historiographical on photography and the practices of history and the other on the role of photographs in the emergence of the concept of collectively- and publicly-owned 'histories' 1850-1939.