Jessica Harrison-Hall

Head of China Section

Department: Asia 


+44 (0)20 7323 8848

Jessica Harrison-Hall curates the Chinese ceramics and decorative arts collections of the British Museum and the Sir Percival David Collection. She is also responsible for Vietnamese art and antiquities. Her role is to research, spread understanding of and develop this material through acquisitions, publications, exhibitions, lectures and study access.

Her current research focuses on Qing China in the 19th century and its relationships with the wider world.

Current projects

  • Developing research project on China in the 19th century for exhibition in 2022

  • Writing book on Qing ceramics for Thames and Hudson 2022

Previous projects

  • Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia, British Museum (2015-2017) – led the China team selecting 2000 objects, developing and writing narrative content for a broad public
  • Ming Courts and Contacts 1400-1450 (2012-2016) – Principal Investigator of a major Arts and Humanities Research Council project with Professor Craig Clunas of the University of Oxford investigating early Ming connections with the wider world. Work involved partnering with 10 museums in China and 30 other organisations worldwide. Research outputs included a major exhibition attended by 140,000 visitors at the Museum.
  • Developing a series of skill-building staff exchanges (2015-2018) Supported by DCMS as part of UK-China Year of cultural exchange, working in partnership with Tate, British Library, V&A, Palace Museum, Shanghai Museum and National Museum of China (2015-2016) resulting in new digital partnerships and a book, Selected Records of Overseas Antiquities: British Museum in collaboration with National Museum of China (2018).
  • Passion for Porcelain collaborative project (2010-2012) – Research and exhibition project between the British Museum, V&A and National Museum of China. This project resulted in an exhibition in Beijing, a book published in both English and in Chinese and a CCTV documentary which attracted 300 million viewers. The exhibition held at the National Museum of China coincided with the UK Now initiative in China 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad.
  • China: Journey to the East (2009-2012) – Lead Curator of the British Museum’s most successful UK travelling exhibition which attracted nearly half a million visitors to showcase regional UK collections of Chinese material and engage younger audiences with China, building partnerships with seven UK museums and their curators. It was accompanied by a children’s book, Pocket Timeline of China (2007). Shown at Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery; The Herbert, Coventry, Willis Museum, Basingstoke; Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland; York City Gallery; Manchester Museum; Sheffield Museums Weston Park.
  • Sir Percival David Collection Permanent Gallery, Chinese Ceramics (2006-2009) – Lead curator; delivered the innovative permanent gallery and co-authored with Regina Krahl Chinese Ceramics (translated into Chinese in 2013); created digital catalogue writing 1,700 exhibits accessible through the BM website and ran a project to translate into Chinese 1,700 explanatory texts now available in Gallery 95 and soon to be on the website.
  • Vietnam: Behind the Lines: Images of War 1965-75 (2002-2003) – Curator of the international touring exhibition (Hong Kong and Belgium), and author of the accompanying exhibition book. It was voted “best political exhibition of the year”. The exhibition was featured on BBC TV’s Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman and on prime time CNN programme, The World Today.
  • Ming Ceramics 1995-2000 – Original research on 1000 late Yuan and Ming ceramics and their contexts. This resulted in a major book, Ming Ceramics (2001) subsequently translated into 2 volumes in Chinese by the Palace Museum, Beijing (2014).

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

  • Permanent Council Member of the Oriental Ceramics Society. President 2015-2018

  • 2009- Council Member for Sir Percival David Foundation Academic Trust

  • 2018- Trustee of Compton Verney, Warwickshire

  • 2016-2019 Advisory Board for the redevelopment of the Burrell Collection, Glasgow

  • 2017 Member of editorial board for Arts of Asia

  • 2015 Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries

  • 2015 Member of the UK-China Advisory Board for DCMS.

  • 2012 Visiting lecturer in Fudan University, Shanghai

Highlighted publications

China: A History in Objects, Thames and Hudson, London, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-0500519707 Italian translation (2018); Portuguese translation (2018); Chinese translation (forthcoming 2019)

Ming China: Courts and Contacts 1400-1450 (2016) (Co edited with Craig Clunas and Yu-ping Luk) ISBN: 9780861592050

Ming: 50 years that changed China, British Museum Publications, London, 2014 (Co edited with Craig Clunas) ISBN: 9780714124773

Ming: Art, People and Places, British Museum Publications, London, 2014. ISBN: 9780714124834

Passion for Porcelain, (co-authors Luisa Mengoni, Hilary Williams, Aileen Dawson), National Museum of China, Beijing, (2012) IBSN- 978-7-5398-5790-9 (Chinese and English)

Chinese Ceramics: Highlights of the Sir Percival David Collection, (co-author Regina Krahl), British Museum Publications, London, 2009 ISBN- 978-07141 24544 Chinese Translation (2015)

Vietnam: Behind the Lines - Images from the War 1965-75, British Museum Publications, London, 2002. ISBN 0 7141 1497 9.

Ming Ceramics - A Catalogue of the late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, British Museum Publications, London, 2001. ISBN 0 7141 1488 X. Translated as Catalogue of Ming Ceramics in the British Museum. Volumes 1 and 2 大英博物館藏中國明代陶瓷, Beijing 2014 ISBN 978 7 5134 0614 7 J. Harrison-Hall

Vietnam: Behind the Lines, Images from the War 1965-75 (London, British Museum Press, 2002)