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The Australian National University

Dr Gretchen M Stolte

BA Art History [magna cum laude], University of Oregon (2006); MAnth [hons], the Australian National University (2008); PhD, the Australian National University (2013)
Research Fellow
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: 61254185

Areas of expertise

  • Social And Cultural Anthropology 160104
  • Art History 190102
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Performing Arts 190401
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies 200201
  • Museum Studies 210204
  • Cultural Studies Not Elsewhere Classified 200299

Research interests

Gretchen's research interests include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and art history
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity studies
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander beadwork
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fashion design
  • American Indian beadwork
  • American Indian fashion design
  • Museum studies: source community engagement
  • Digital anthropology: representing Indigenous culture
  • The material culture of graphic narratives and comic books
  • Torres Strait Islander dance and performance


Gretchen is a Nimi’ipuu (Nez Perce) American Indian and has degrees in art history and anthropology focusing on the material culture of Indigenous peoples both in North America and Australia. Gretchen’s PhD research focused on the relationship between images and identity among Indigenous artists in urban and regional centres. She is interested in how cultural protocols fit into the creation of contemporary artworks, how those protocols were arrived at, what sort of cultural consultation was involved, and how conflicts in consultation were negotiated. Aside from artworks such as paintings, linoprints, batiks, carvings and sculptures, Gretchen is also interested in looking at dance, costumes, fashion and beadwork.

Since obtaining her PhD, Gretchen has co-curated a major exhibition on bark paintings from Arnhem Land. After the successful launch of that exhibit, Gretchen focused on cultural collection databases and how they can help facilitate richer ethnographic understandings between Indigenous communities with museums and galleries holding their material culture. She has taught material culture courses at the University of Canberra in their Cultural Heritage and Preservation department and is currently supervising an honours student within that department.

Gretchen is currently a Research Fellow on the ARC grant, “the Legacy of the Aboriginal Artists Agency” with Howard Morphy, Aaron Corn and Fred Myers. Through this project, she hopes to further explore Torres Strait Islander dance and performance as well as bring out the impact organisations like the Aboriginal Artist's Agency have had in the development of Indigenous art movements across Australia.

Researcher's projects

Torres Strait Islander Dance: understanding the movement of cultural knowledge

This project investigates the movements and cultural understandings of contemporary and historical dance across the Torres Strait Islands.

Indigenous Metadata Schemas in Museums: a collaborative research project

This project compares various metadata schemas of Australian and American museums with large Indigenous collections.

Aboriginal Bark Paintings from Arnhem Land at the University of Oregon's Museum of Natural and Cultural History

This project works with staff and curators at the UO's MNCH in the development of cultural understandings surrounding their Aboriginal bark painting collection.

Nez Perce Beadwork Traditions: research at the Lapwai Reservation

This project develops a content analysis of Nez Perce beadwork at the Nez Perce Museum at Lapwai, Idaho in collaboration with contemporary Nez Perce artists.


Available student projects

Gretchen has presented several guest lectures, taught material culture studies and presented to fine arts students. Below follows a selection of her most recent involvement in education:


Lecture title: Digital Anthropology. HUMN2001: Digital Humanities: Theories, Practices & Projects at the Australian National University's Centre for Digital Humanities Research.

Sessional Lecturer/Course Convener Objects as Material Culture. The University of Canberra’s Faculty of Arts and Design.

Lecture title: Approaches to Material Culture Studies: How can we consider the environment as ‘material culture’?  Balawan Elective at the Australian National University’s School of Art’s Environment Studio.


Sessional Lecturer/Course Convener Museums and the Anthropology of Collecting. The University of Canberra’s Faculty of Arts and Design.


Lecture Title: Introduction to Western Art History. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Department, Tropical North Queensland, TAFE, Cairns.


Lecture Title: Survey of Australian Rock Art. The University of Oregon’s art history department.

Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  25 April 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers