Marian (Molly) Leech

portait before painting

Ph.D. Candidate

Dr. Anton C.R. Dreesmann Fellow, Rijksmuseum

I am a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the department of history. 

I study Native American and early colonial Northeastern American history with a particular interest in the mid-Atlantic region and what the Dutch West India Company called "New Netherland" in the seventeenth century. I also study early modern art, architecture, economic and consumer life in the Dutch Republic (sixteenth–seventeenth centuries). 

My dissertation examines the political economy of the seventeenth-century fur and wampum trades in Northeastern America and contemporaneous artisan and merchant networks in early modern Europe. In the North American context, I study how Indigenous ecological knowledge, diplomatic traditions, and value systems shaped the terms of inter-cultural exchanges. Furthermore, I consider the intentions and limitations of colonial proprietary claims, especially as they are challenged by Indigenous leaders. 

In the context of late medieval and early modern Europe, I am interested in artisan practices of hatting, felting, medicine and science, as well as ecological precarity, shifting conceptions of property, and landscape transformation. My project retraces material cultures of knowledge around the European beaver (Castor canadensis) which was nearly eradicated from Western Europe during the middle ages. 

My research has been supported by the Dr. Anton C.R. Dreesmann Fellowship for Art Historical Research, Rijksmuseum (2023-24), a short-term fellowship at John Carter Brown Library (2023-24), The New-York Historical Society of Daughters of Holland Dames Short-Term Fellowship from the New-York Historical Society (2018); as well as grants from the Penn Museum (2023), New Netherland Institute (2023; 2020), Historians of Netherlandish Art (2023), and the Archaeological Society of New Jersey (2018).

I have shared my research at the Rijksmuseum and the annual meetings of the International Conference for Netherlandic Studies (ICNS), the Council for Northeastern Historical Archaeology (CNEHA), Ethnohistory, Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and American Anthropological Association (AAA). I have collaborated with researchers at the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam) and the National Museum of World Cultures (Leiden), and am a graduate researcher for the Penn-Mellon Just Futures project, Dispossessions in the Americas: The Extraction of Bodies, Land, and Heritage from La Conquista to the Present. 

AdvisorsDaniel K. RichterJared Farmer

Committee: Daniel K. Richter (history), Jared Farmer (history), Margaret Bruchac (anthropology), Shira Brisman (art history), Marcy Norton (history). 


photo by Maarten Kools 


MA, with distinction, Department of Archaeology. Leiden University, Netherlands. 2019.

BA with honors, Department of Anthropology & Sociology. Lafayette College, Easton, PA. 2017.



Research Interests

Historical ethnography, historical archaeology, art history, decolonizing methodologies, histories of early modern collecting and artisan epistemologies, spatial and environmental history, temporalities of landscape, heritage and memory, colonial cultures, colonial disorders, museums and collections research. 

Selected Publications

“Place-names as Monuments: The Entangled Histories of Coaquannock and Philadelphia,” Monument Lab, 4 Oct. 2022,