Online Conversation | Material Cultures of the Global 18th Century

Posted in books, online learning by Editor on May 14, 2023

Material Cultures of the Global 18th Century: Art, Mobility, and Change
HECAA Zoom Event, Wednesday, 17 May 2023, 6.30–8.00pm EST

This upcoming Zoom event, sponsored by the Historians of Eighteenth Century Art and Architecture (HECAA), celebrates the publication of a new volume dedicated to global eighteenth-century material cultures. The editors, Wendy Bellion and Kristel Smentek, will offer remarks and invite conversation. There will also be presentations by select authors: Douglas Fordham, Yve Chavez, Matthew Gin, and Tara Zanardi.

This online event is open to all; HECAA membership is not required. Please register in advance here».

Wendy Bellion and Kristel Smentek, eds., Material Cultures of the Global Eighteenth Century: Art, Mobility, and Change (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2023), 288 pages, ISBN: 978-1350259034, $115. Also available as an ebook.


Online Conversation | Paris Spies-Gans, A Revolution on Canvas

Posted in books, lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on April 19, 2023

From the invitation:

Paris Spies-Gans and Martina Droth in Conversation | A Revolution on Canvas: The Rise of Women Artists in Britain and France, 1760–1830
Online, 3 May 2023, 12.00pm (Eastern Daylight Time)

Maria Cosway, The Duchess of Devonshire as Cynthia from Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queene’, 1781–82 oil on canvas (Chatsworth: The Devonshire Collection).

Please join the MA State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (MA-NMWA) and our sister committees in the UK and France for an exciting virtual event on Wednesday, 3 May 2023. Paris Spies-Gans and Martina Droth will discuss Spies-Gans’ important first book, A Revolution on Canvas: The Rise of Women Artists in Britain and France, 1760–1830.

Just as the National Museum of Women in the Arts founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay sought to challenge the assumption that there have been ‘no great women artists’ by collecting and publicly exhibiting many indisputably ‘great’ works of artist women, so too has Paris Spies-Gans investigated the same assumption, through evidence-based analysis. Her body of work includes site and time-specific research that reveals how women have found ways to achieve critical and commercial success despite the obstacles they have faced. Both women—Wilhelmina, the collector, and Paris, the scholar—intend their work not as end-points but as part of ongoing discussion and learning. Tracing the activity of more than 1,300 women who exhibited more than 7,000 works of art across genres at premier exhibition venues in London and Paris throughout the Revolutionary era, the book demonstrates that women artists professionalized in significant numbers a century earlier than scholars have previously thought.

Paris Spies-Gans’s scholarship and resultant discoveries complement the mission of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and its committees, three of which are presenting this event. Martina Droth, as interlocutor, will use her expertise to contextualize the material in A Revolution on Canvas: The Rise of Women Artists in Britain and France, 1760–1830. We hope you can join us for what promises to be a fascinating discussion. Although this event is free of charge, advance registration is required; details about the event will then be sent to registered attendees. International guests are invited to use this email to register: contact@ma-nmwa.org.

Paris Spies-Gans is a historian and historian of art with a focus on women, gender, and the politics of artistic expression. She holds a PhD and MA in History from Princeton University, an MA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and an AB in History and Literature from Harvard University. Her work prioritizes women artists and their writings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, illuminating how women have navigated sociopolitical barriers to participate in their societies through diverse forms of intellectual and creative expression, even with the obstacles they regularly faced—and especially at moments of political revolution and change. Her first book, A Revolution on Canvas: The Rise of Women Artists in Britain and France, 1760–1830, was published by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in Association with Yale University Press in June 2022. It was named one of the top art books of 2022 by The Art Newspaper and The Conversation and received the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies’ Louis A. Gottschalk Prize, Honorable Mention, for an outstanding historical or critical study on the eighteenth century. She is currently working on her second book, A New Story of Art (Doubleday/US and Viking/UK).

Martina Droth is Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Yale Center for British Art, where she oversees collections, exhibitions, and publications. Her curatorial work and research focus on sculpture and British art. She was the Chair of the Association of Research Institutes in Art History from 2016 to 2022. Current and recent curatorial projects include: Bill Brandt | Henry Moore (Hepworth, Sainsbury Center, and YCBA, 2020–23); Things of Beauty Growing: British Studio Pottery (YCBA and Fitzwilliam Museum, 2017–18); and Sculpture Victorious: Art in an Age of Invention, 1837–1901 (YCBA and Tate Britain, 2014–15). Prior to joining the Center, she was at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, where her exhibitions included Taking Shape: Finding Sculpture in the Decorative Arts (HMI and John Paul Getty Museum, 2008–2009) and Bronze: The Power of Life and Death (HMI, 2005). Her forthcoming projects include an exhibition on Hew Locke.

Lecture Series | 2023 Wallace Seminars on Collections and Collecting

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on April 14, 2023

This year’s Wallace Seminar Series on Collections and Collecting:

2023 Wallace Collection Seminars on the History of Collections and Collecting
Online and/or In-Person (depending upon session), The Wallace Collection, London, last Monday of most months

Established in 2006, the Seminars in the History of Collecting series helps fulfil The Wallace Collection’s commitment to the research and study of the history of collections and collecting, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries in Paris and London. Seminars are normally held on the last Monday of every month, excluding August and December. They act as a forum for the presentation and discussion of new research into the history of collecting, and are open to curators, academics, historians, archivists and all those with an interest in the subject. Each seminar is 45–60 minutes long, with time for Q&A.

Book your place via the Wallace Collection website. Bookings will open a few weeks before each seminar. A detailed summary of each forthcoming seminar will be provided around the same time. The 2023 Seminars in the History of Collecting will be on Zoom and livestreamed via YouTube for the months of January to April. We hope to be able to hold our seminars in hybrid format from the month of May, in person at the Wallace Collection and live on YouTube. For enquiries or to join our mailing list, please contact collection@wallacecollection.org.

Monday, 30 January
Simon Spier (Curator, Ceramics and Glass 1600–1800, Victoria & Albert Museum, London), Creating the Bowes Museum: Collectors, Dealers, and Auctions in Mid-19th-Century Paris

Monday, 27 February
Caroline Dakers (Professor Emerita in Cultural History, University of Arts London), Millionaire Shopping: The Collections of Alfred Morrison (1821–1897)

Monday, 27 March
Thomas Cooper (PhD candidate, University of Cambridge), Reconstructing the Art Collection of May Morris (1862–1938)

Monday, 17 April
Diana Davis (Independent researcher), ‘Fertile in Resources and in Ingenious Devices’: Ferdinand de Rothschild and His Dealers Revealed through the Archive
More information available here»

Monday, 22 May
Jonathan Conlin (University of Southampton), Knickerbocker Glory? Alphonso Trumpbour Clearwater (1848–1933) and the Collecting of American Silver
More information available here»

Monday, 26 June
Alessia Attanasio (PhD candidate, University of Birmingham), The Fortunes of Baroque Neapolitan Art in English Collections during the Grand Tour, 1680–1800

Monday, 31 July
Peter Humfrey (Emeritus Professor of Art History, University of St Andrews), The Picture Collections of the Poet Samuel Rogers (1763–1855) and of His Siblings

Monday, 18 September
Ellinoor Bergvelt (University of Amsterdam), The Collection of William Cartwright (1606–1686) at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Monday, 30 October
Barbara Lasic (Senior Lecturer, MA in Fine and Decorative Art and Design, Sotheby’s Institute of Art), ‘Like a Tale from the Thousand and One Nights’: Reconstructing the Taste and Collections of William Williams-Hope (1802–1855)

Monday, 27 November
John Holden (Independent author, researcher, and an Associate at Demos) and Rebecca Wallis (Cultural Heritage Curator, National Trust), Ralph Dutton (1898–1985), 8th Baron Sherborne: The Life of a Collector

Royal Oak Programs, Spring 2023

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on April 13, 2023

18th-century offerings from the Royal Oak Foundation this spring:

Robert Sackville-West | Knole: A Private View into One of Britain’s Great Houses
Charleston Library Society, Charleston, 21 March 2023, 6pm ET

Set of pastels at Knole by Rosalba Carriera: Charles Sackville, 2nd Duke of Dorset at bottom right and his Italian mistress Lucia Panichi, at bottom left (Photo by Ashley Hicks, from Knole: A Private View of One of Britain’s Great Houses, Rizzoli, 2022).

The Sackvilles have inhabited Knole, one of Britain’s greatest houses, for more than 400 years. In his talk, Robert Sackville-West, the 13th generation of the family to live at Knole, will take Royal Oak members on a personal tour of this ‘calendar house’, with its legendary 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances, and 7 courtyards. Lord Sackville will illustrate the smoldering spirit of Knole, from the state rooms—with the finest collection of 17th-century Royal Stuart furniture in the world and outstanding tapestries—to the private apartments filled with portraits by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Sir Peter Lely, and Reynolds. He will include a trip behind-the-scenes into the labyrinth of cellars and show attics filled with family mementos.

He will describe his ancestors who inhabited his family home—the grave Elizabethan statesman, the good-for-nothing gadabout at the seedy court of James I, the dashing cavalier, the Restoration rake, the 3rd Duke of the ancien régime—who inhabited his family home and were described by Vita Sackville-West (born at Knole) as “a race too prodigal, too amorous, too weak, too indolent, and too melancholy.” Lord Sackville will talk about the way his family has shaped and furnished the house and describe how Knole itself has shaped the Sackvilles, influencing their lives and their relationships up to the present day. The talk will feature stunning images of the interiors and architectural and decorative features taken by Ashley Hicks for Knole: A Private View of One of Britain’s Great Houses, published by Rizzoli in 2022.

More information available here.

Robert Sackville-West, 7th Baron Sackville, studied history at Oxford University and went on to work in publishing. He now chairs Knole Estates, the property and investment company that, in parallel with the National Trust, runs the Sackville family’s interests at Knole.

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Oliver Gerrish | Distinguished to Eccentric: Norfolk Country Houses
Online, Zoom Webinar, 20 April 2023, 2.00pm ET
Also available as a digital rental from April 21 to May 5

Houghton Hall.

For centuries, Norfolk’s wide-open skies, unspoilt coastline, and rich and beautiful agricultural land have inspired writers and poets, artists, and designers, as well as architects and builders. Join architectural historian Oliver Gerrish on an enchanting visual journey through Norfolk’s rich architectural heritage. From the Jacobean splendors of Blickling Hall, believed to be the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, to the early Palladian elegance of Raynham Hall, possibly influenced by Inigo Jones’ circle, and for 400 years the seat of the Townshend family.

When one thinks of Norfolk, two of the grandest private houses in England immediately come to mind: Houghton and Holkham Hall. More than a country house, Holkham, designed by William Kent and Lord Burlington for the Earls of Leicester, can be described as a symmetrical Palladian palace. The sublime grandeur continues inside in the Marble Hall, which was modelled on a Roman basilica, with steps leading to the impressive State Rooms on the piano nobile.

The other neo-Palladian Norfolk ‘palace’ is Houghton Hall, one of England’s most beautiful stately homes designed by Colen Campbell and James Gibbs, with lavish interiors by William Kent. Both of these stately homes were built to reflect the wealth, taste, collections, and power of its inhabitants. Oliver will also examine private Norfolk houses from the 19th and 20th century. One from the Arts & Crafts movement is E.S. Prior’s 17-bedroomed Voewood in High Kelling, Norfolk, which is now owned by a well-known book dealer.

Finally, we will see the quirky Edwardian Sennowe Park, remodeled by George Skipper in 1900–1907 for the grandson of the founder of Thomas Cook travel. Known for its imaginative design, barrel vaulted library, and Art-Deco style tiling, the house is rarely on view.

More information available here.

Oliver Gerrish has a Master’s degree in architectural history from the University of Cambridge. He is a trustee of the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust and helped to found their Architecture Awards. For over 10 years he was actively involved with The Georgian Group, for whom he re-founded and successfully led the Young Georgians from 2002 to 2016. He was one of the youngest feature writers for Country Life, and has written for The Georgian magazine and reviews for House and Garden and others. He has lectured nationally on subjects ranging from the masters of the Arts and Crafts to the role country houses play in the lives of younger people. He regularly organizes tours of historic buildings throughout Britain for private clients and charities.

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Rufus Bird | St. James Palace: From Leper Hospital to Royal Court
The Union League of Philadelphia, 2 May 2023, 6.30pm (with an option for dinner)

The General Society Library, New York, 4 May 2023, 6pm ET
Also available as a digital rental from May 5 to May 19

Bird’s eye view of St James Palace.

Visitors to London may recognize the red brick building at the bottom of St. James’ Street—St James’ Palace—and its location near many Pall Mall clubs and boutique hotels. St James’s Palace is a remarkable building at the heart of the history of the British monarchy and served as the official residence of the British monarchy from 1698 to 1837. However, despite its pivotal role in British history, St. James’s Palace is the least known of the royal residences.

While King Charles III and the Queen Consort live at Clarence House, their home is actually one of several structures which formed a part of the buildings that emerged from the Tudor palace in 1530s. St. James’s medieval origins were as a leper hospital dedicated to St. James. The palace’s history also includes stories of murder; family arguments between father and son; a lost masterpiece building by William Kent; and lavish royal apartments. Over the centuries, St. James’s Palace survived dilapidation and fire, 19th century reconstruction, and remained the location for important international diplomacy. Rufus Bird—whose office was in the heart of St. James’s Palace for over 10 years—will bring to life the stories of this remarkable palace. He will explore the role of the palace a principal seat of the British monarchy after fire consumed Whitehall Palace, and explain the building’s impact on the development of London and the West End.

More information on Philadelphia available here and for New York available here.

Rufus Bird is an art advisor at Gurr Johns where he is Director of Decorative Arts and Heritage Collections, Europe. After receiving History of Art from Cambridge University, he joined Christie’s as a graduate trainee and joined the Furniture Department in 1999. In 2010, he was appointed by HM Queen Elizabeth II as Deputy Surveyor of the Queen’s Works of Art, and then in 2018 as Surveyor of the Queen’s Works of Art. At the Royal Collection, he was responsible for about 500,000 works of decorative art across fifteen residences. He is one of the authors of the official history of St James’s Palace published by Yale University Press and Royal Collection Trust in 2022.

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Jeremy Musson | ‘Still Life Drama’: Dennis Severs’ House Revived
Online, Zoom Webinar, 9 May 2023, 2pm ET
Also available as a digital rental from May 10 to May 24

Drawing Room of the Dennis Severs’ House (Photo by Lucinda Douglas-Menzies).

Step back in time at the Dennis Severs’ House, located at 18 Folgate Street in London. Visitors are invited to participate in what the American founder called “a still life drama.” This extraordinary multi-sensory experience allows guests to walk through each room of the house feeling as if the 18th- and 19th-century inhabitants have only just withdrawn a moment before.

Collector and founder Dennis Severs bought the semi-derelict 18th-century Spitalfields house in the 1970s. With no desire to restore, Severs wanted to honor what he imagined were the echoes of the house’s history. He created the fictional story of a Huguenot silk merchant’s family named Jervis, who lived in the house for generations from 1724 to 1914. Each room tells the triumphs and tragedies of this fictional family through the original objects Severs bought from London’s street markets and sale rooms, atmospherically lit by candlelight. Painstakingly assembled over 20 years, many of the rooms were mocked up in the manner of stage scenery using inexpensive materials—all conveying a haunting sense of London’s past: silk waistcoats are flung on rumpled bed clothes, a card game has just ended, fires crackle, and steam rises from a filled punch bowl.

Jeremy Musson recently featured this unusual house in Country Life Magazine. Jeremy will speak about the house which he says “defies categorization…and is a house of mystery and paradox.” He will illustrate the rooms—recently repaired and conserved by the trustees during COVID lockdown—and show English houses that possibly influenced Severs’ designs. He also will show how the founder used costume and set designers, as well interior designers, to create a remarkable home that captures a moment in time and history.

More information available here.

Jeremy Musson is a leading authority on the English country house. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and sits on a number of boards and trusts including the Country House Foundation. He was awarded an M Phil in Renaissance History at the Warburg Institute, University of London in 1989 and was architectural editor of Country Life from 1995 to 2007. Before joining Country Life in 1995, Jeremy was an assistant regional curator for the National Trust in East Anglia. He has written and edited hundreds of articles on historic country houses, from Garsington Manor to Knebworth House. He also presented 14 programmes on BBC 2, making up two series called The Curious House Guest in 2005–07. He lectures and supervises for academic programmes with Cambridge University, London University, and Buckingham University, as well as the Attingham Summer School. His books include Up and Down Stairs: The History of the English Country House Servant (2009), English Country House Interiors (2011), Robert Adam: Country House Design, Decoration & the Art of Elegance (2017), The Country House: Past, Present, Future: Great Houses of the British Isles (2018), and Romantics and Classics: Style in the English Country House (Rizzoli, 2021).

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Sophie Chessum | Clandon Park: Uncovering the Secrets of the Past
Online, Zoom Webinar, 23 May 2023, 2pm ET
Also available as a digital rental from May 24 to June 9

Recovered items following the fire at Clandon Park.

National Trust Curator Sophie Chessum witnessed the devastating fire at Clandon Park, Surrey on the night of April 29, 2015. The Palladian style house, a NT property, had been built in the early 1730s by Thomas Onslow and his wife to impress and entertain their friends, and included a Marble Hall with richly carved marble fireplaces by John Michael Rysbrack. Everyone was safely evacuated, but the 2015 fire raged through the house, leaving Clandon literally open to the skies.

Firefighters and NT staff tried to salvage some of the remarkable artifacts and objects, but the inside was gutted. Planning for the house’s future started almost before the cinders had cooled. Within weeks cranes removed the dangerous timbers and bricks, and a self-supporting scaffold was designed to wrap and roof the four-story structure. Everyone hoped for restoration, but after years of forensic investigation and consultation with experts, it was not deemed possible apart from the Speaker’s Parlour. The NT and teams of experts developed a new approach that celebrates what survives of the 18th-century building and seeks to tell the stories about how this masterpiece was built. The fire may have destroyed much of Clandon’s interior, but it also revealed how the house was constructed and crafted. Hidden secrets from Clandon’s history now revealed include: construction dating from timbers, stones reused from the previous Jacobean structure, hidden doorways and alcoves, and paneling in the State Bedroom.

Sophie will talk about that fateful night, show some of the salvaged fragments and objects under conservation—including the State Bed—and explain what curators and specialists have learned about the house. She will describe the current project which gives access to spaces conserved, offering visitors a unique ‘X-ray view’ and celebrating the craft skills of the people who created some of England’s greatest country houses.

More information available here.

Sophie Chessum is Clandon Park’s Senior Project Curator. Chessum has been with the National Trust since 1998, when she started as a Curatorial Researcher. Since 2002 she has been a curator for a number of internationally important houses, collections, gardens, and landscapes including Clandon Park, Claremont, Hatchlands Park, Hinton Ampner, Petworth House, Polesden Lacey, The Homewood, Uppark, and Woolbeding. She has been a consultancy manager at the National Trust since 2013, where she provides specific consultancy support to Ham House, Sutton House and 575 Wandsworth Road, Osterley Park, Morden Hall Park, Rainham Hall, Carlye’s House, Fenton House, Red House, and 2 Willow Road. In addition she is the curator for Ham House, Richmond Surrey. Since the fire at Clandon Park in April 2015, she has been seconded to lead the salvage elements of this project, providing curatorial expertise on the house and its collection and working closely with archaeologist and conservator.

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Justin Scully | Saving Fountains Abbey: Project Update
Online, Zoom Webinar, 1 June 2023, 2pm ET
Also available as a digital rental from June 2 to June 16

Flooding at Studley Royal Water Garden.

In 2020, Royal Oak donated $250,000 to preserve one of England’s most magnificent sites which was one of the first places in the UK to become a World Heritage Site in 1986. Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden is an awe-inspiring landscape, owned by the National Trust since 1983. Cistercian monks established the Abbey in 1132, manipulating the River Skell to harness its power for grinding grain into flour. Over time, the Abbey became one of the largest, richest, and most influential Cistercian sites in Britain—until the Dissolution in the 1530s by Henry VIII.

In the early 18th century, John Aislabie began transforming his nearby landscape garden of Studley Royal into a picturesque design that incorporated the entire wooded valley and featured a huge water garden with lakes, grottos, canals, and cascades. Paths were created with viewpoints that centered on classical statues and follies. In 1767, his son William bought the neighboring Abbey ruins to incorporate them into the landscape and to create the ultimate vista or ‘Surprise View.’ Centuries later, the garden design is much the same, but this important landscape is often flooded from the River Skell. To save the site, the National Trust has partnered with conservation organizations, local farmers, and landowners to implement a natural flood management program.

Justin Scully, the site’s General Manager, will update Royal Oak members on the on-going progress of these efforts, including the planting of woodland and hedgerows and the creation of ponds and meadows to slow the water flow. He will illustrate the changes and explain the challenges faced by the preservation team. Additionally, he will talk about the surviving relics of the Chinese Garden and the wider 18th-century and monastic landscape, as well as exciting discoveries in the historic archives.

More information available here.

Justin Scully is General Manager at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Gardens, National Trust. The site is one of the busiest properties in the National Trust welcoming in excess of 600,000 visitors per year. Justin has worked for the National Trust for 14 years and in his 6 years at Fountains has overseen multi-million pound investment in visitor infrastructure and conservation, as well as the Skell Valley project, a £2.5m landscape scale conservation project.

Mount Vernon Symposium | Decorative Arts in the French Atlantic World

Posted in conferences (to attend), online learning by Editor on March 27, 2023

French porcelain tea and coffee service made for George and Martha Washington, and gifted by the Comte de Custine de Sarreck, ca. 1782.

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From Mount Vernon:

‘Very elegant & much admired’: Decorative Arts in the French Atlantic World
George Washington Presidential Library, Mount Vernon, Virginia, 2–4 June 2023

After the American Revolution, George Washington resolved that he would no longer “send to England (from whence I formerly had all my goods) for anything I can get upon tolerable terms elsewhere.” He instead turned to the United States’ greatest ally, France, where he found the furniture, ceramics, textiles, and decorative objects to be “very elegant” and “much admired.”

The symposium will take place at the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon, in Virginia. The library opened in 2013.

The 2023 Mount Vernon Symposium will examine George and Martha Washington’s adoption of the French taste, as a catalyst to further explore the complex interchange of culture, decorative styles, and objects in the French-Atlantic World. Join leading curators and historians as they examine the diffusion of French style, from the Ancien Régime through the French Revolution to the French Empire, and from Paris to London, Philadelphia, Port-au-Prince, and New Orleans, to 20th-century Los Angeles. In-person participation cost is $400 ($375 for members and donors), which includes all lectures, meals, and tours. Virtual participation (in real-time or through recordings available until 4 July 2023) is $40.

F R I D A Y ,  2  J U N E  2 0 2 3

1:00  Registration

1:30  Welcome and Introductions

1:45  The Garde-Meuble de la Couronne: From its Creation to Revolutionary Sales — Stéphane Castelluccio
The Garde-Meuble de la Couronne was the administration in charge of furnishing the apartments of the members of the royal family in the residences of the French sovereign. King Henry IV created it in 1604 as part of his policy to reorganize the kingdom after the Wars of Religion. This talk will present the management, exercised by only three different families during a century and a half, as well as the functioning of this administration which took an increasing importance throughout the 18th century. It will explain the changes in its organization during the Revolution, and end with the reasons, principles and organization of the revolutionary sales of the Crown’s furniture, decided by the new Republic from 1793.

2:45  ‘A little French ease adopted would be an improvement”: Lessons in Sociability and Decorative Arts from 1780s Paris — Amy Hudson Henderson
After the American Revolution, an increasing number of American diplomats, businessmen, students, artists, and tourists found themselves in Paris mixing amongst themselves in the upper echelons of French society. It was a heady time, ripe with opportunities for forging new relationships and identities. Here, in 1784, a young Nabby Adams observed that Americans would do well to adopt “a little French ease” as an antidote to the stiffness and reserve that seemed to mar their social circles back home. What did she mean? This paper answers that question by exploring extant correspondence and household furnishings. By focusing on the acquisitions and behaviors of the prominent Americans who spent time in Paris during the 1780s, we deepen our understanding of the role of French decorative arts in both sociability and diplomacy and discover why these objects appealed to George and Martha Washington.

3:45  Break

4:00  Adam T. Erby – TBA

5:00  Henry Auguste: A Goldsmith in Revolutionary Paris — Iris Moon
This talk explores the unlikely career trajectory of the Parisian goldsmith Henry Auguste (1759–1816) during the French Revolution, drawing on new research published in Luxury after the Terror. Crafty, wily, and untrustworthy, but obviously talented with a hammer and chisel, Auguste started off as an apprentice to his well-known goldsmith father, who worked for Louis XVI. Beyond the French court, Auguste acquired a number of prestigious clients, including the British connoisseur William Beckford, for whom he fashioned an ewer made out of pure gold. Just as the volatile politics of the French Revolution sought to overturn the values of the Ancien Régime in favor of new ones, Auguste sought to refashion himself as more than a goldsmith during a moment of tremendous opportunity—and great risk.

6:30  Reception

7:15  Dinner

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7:30  Breakfast

8:45  Welcome and Introductions

9:00  Emerging Scholars’ Panel

10:00  Break

10:15  Revolutionary Things — Ashli C. White
During the late 18th century, a wide range of objects associated with the American, French, and Haitian revolutions crisscrossed the ocean. Furniture and ceramics; clothing and accessories; maps, prints, and public amusements—all circulated among diverse actors who wrestled with the political implications of these items. In this presentation we will examine the unique ways that transatlantic revolutionary things shaped how people understood contested concepts like equality, freedom, and solidarity. And, we will explore how these objects became a means through which individuals—enslaved and free, women and men, poor and elite—promoted, and sometimes tried to thwart, the realization of these ideals on the ground.

11:15  À la française: Designing French North America, 1700–1820 — Philippe Halbert
At its height, New France extended from eastern Canada, across the Great Lakes, and down the Mississippi River to Louisiana. Although its population remained small, French North America was no less dynamic in terms of artistic originality or creative output. Even after New France’s fall in 1763, areas of French settlement held fast to creole syntheses of Gallic aesthetics and vernacular tradition. This presentation will introduce a cross-section of objects and buildings whose stories reveal the vibrant legacies of French cultural identity as it took root in North America before 1800.

12:15  Lunch

1:45  An American in Paris: Walt Disney and France — Wolf Burchard
Walt Disney was about to turn 17 when he first set foot in France in December 1918. The buildings, the art and the atmosphere had a lasting impact on the animated world he would go on to create. Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts, an exhibition shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Wallace Collection in London and the Huntington Art Gallery in Pasadena, brought together the seemingly disparate worlds of 20th-century hand-drawn animation and 18th-century decorative arts, which upon closer inspection reveal remarkable similarities. Wolf Burchard will relate how the exhibition explored Disney’s fascination with European art and the impact it had on the studio’s output, especially the three French fairytales retold in hand-drawn animation: Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and Beauty and the Beast (1991).

2:45  Break

3:15  A Passion for Porcelain: Sèvres in the Wallace Collection — Helen Jacobsen
Ever since the early days of its development in the mid-18th century, the porcelain produced at the Sèvres Manufactory outside Paris has been a magnet for collectors, attracted by its vibrant colours, rich gilding, and innovative designs. The Sèvres collection at the Wallace Collection was put together in the 19th century, but its collectors were no less beguiled by its flamboyant luxury and exquisite craftsmanship. This lecture will follow the evolution of some of the most celebrated pieces ever produced at the manufactory and will explore the passions that gave shape to what is now one of the finest collections of Sèvres porcelain in the world, a testament to its enduring fascination.

4:15  James Monroe’s Use of French Furnishings in the White House and the Restoration of the Bellangé Suite — Melissa Naulin
Following its burning during the War of 1812, the President’s House required almost all new furnishings before it could reopen for President James Monroe’s use in 1817. Relying on his extensive knowledge of fashionable home goods gained through his two European diplomatic appointments, Monroe worked to secure a large number of these new furnishings from Paris. My talk will focus on these government-purchased French goods, many of which remain amongst the most-treasured objects in the White House collection. I will also detail the recent effort to restore the furniture suite made by Pierre Antoine Bellangé and purchased for Monroe’s “large oval room” (today’s Blue Room) to its original splendor.

5:45  Reception

7:00  Dinner

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9:00  Breakfast

9:30  From West to East: Huguenot Craft Communities in London’s Soho and Spitalfields — Tessa Murdoch
Drawing on research undertaken for her recent publication, Tessa will speak about the formation of Huguenot artisan communities in Soho and Spitalfields. Leading personalities, include engraver Simon Gribelin, resident in West London who married into the Spitalfields based Mettayer family. The complex history of the Courtauld family, established in West London, gravitates from silversmithing in Soho and the City to textile production in Spitalfields and beyond. Craft communities centered on conformist and non-conformist French speaking churches and were gradually assimilated into Anglican churches. Huguenot refugees developed mutual support systems, friendly societies, the French Hospital which still flourishes as almshouses and the Westminster French Protestant Charity School. These Huguenot charities document the contribution of Huguenot craftsmen and women to British culture.

10:15  Forging a New Vernacular: The Transformation and Triumph of a French Ébéniste in Federal New York — Peter M. Kenny
Charles-Honoré Lannuier (1779–1819) arrived in New York in the spring of 1803 a thoroughly-trained Parisian ébéniste who, according to his inaugural newspaper advertisement, had “worked at his trade with the most celebrated Cabinet Makers of Europe.” Well-versed in the elegant forms of the late Louis XVI period, which still held sway during the earliest period of his training in Paris, Lannuier’s design vocabulary at the time of his arrival also included the harder edged yet brilliant neoclassical style of post-Revolutionary France known as Directoire (1795–99), and the Consulat (1799–1804), a heavier more monumental style featuring the more archaeologically correct forms of le goût antique. This was Lannuier’s Parisian stylistic legacy. How he transformed this legacy, ultimately becoming one of the two principal leaders of the New York school of cabinetmaking alongside his greatest rival, Duncan Phyfe, is an inspiring and uniquely American story.

11:00  Break

11:15  Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Material Creation of an Imperial Legacy — Alexandra Deutsch
Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte (1785–1879) is often remembered for her short, but remarkable marriage in 1803 to Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte. Although their mésalliance resulted in divorce, their union set her and future generations of American Bonapartes on a path that allied them with France and an imperial legacy. Drawing from thousands of documents and a collection of more than 600 objects associated with the Bonapartes, this lecture charts the history of Elizabeth’s long life during which she meticulously created and documented a material world tethered to France. From her fashion to her silver, jewels, and furniture, Elizabeth’s self-presentation proclaimed her French connection. Her obsessive documentation of her possessions reveals a fascinating and complex narrative that spans multiple generations and reaches far beyond Baltimore.

Online Talk | Beckfords and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Posted in books, on site, online learning, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on March 13, 2023

From The Salisbury Museum and Eventbrite:

Amy Frost, The Beckfords and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Online, Thursday, 16 March 2023, 7.30pm (GMT)

Beckford’s Tower, 1826–27 (photo by Tom Burrows).

From the purchase of Fonthill in Wiltshire by William Beckford in 1744 to the death of his son in Bath 100 years later, the social advancements and retreats of the Beckford family relied upon the profits of transatlantic slavery. This talk will explore the extensive collecting and architectural creations of the Beckfords, and highlight how they were made possible by a vast fortune built from the stolen labour of thousands of enslaved Africans. This is a fundraising talk for The Salisbury Museum: £12 (£9 members).

Dr Amy Frost is an expert on the life and work of William Beckford and curator of Beckford’s Tower in Bath.

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Press release (7 March 2023) from the Bath Preservation Trust:

Alex Wheatle and State of Trust Join Forces with Beckford’s Tower

As part of the ‘Our Tower’ regeneration plan, Beckford’s Tower and State of Trust join forces with author Alex Wheatle to deliver interpretive dance performance of Wheatle’s prize-winning 2020 novel Cane Warriors.

book coverCane Warriors tells the story of Tacky’s Rebellion, an uprising of Akan people fighting for their freedom that took place in Jamaica in 1760, and included enslaved people on a plantation owned by the Beckford family. The new project will put a spotlight on the link between the Beckford family and the rebellion and engage with a wide cross section of people in the process, particularly young people in the community and online, in order to develop an interpretive dance performance of the novel. The research and development will build a team of exceptional performers. New choreography, music, photography, and film will be created, and there will also be a virtual gallery and film archive for future use.

The resulting performances will take place in March 2024. Beckford’s Tower will host one performance, with the other two to be held in other Bath and Bristol venues. The new production has been supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

The performance, which will be filmed for posterity, will encourage attendees to engage with one of the most troubling aspects of William Beckford’s legacy: his claiming in ownership enslaved people, which funded his lifestyle and his vast collections. The aim is to build awareness around the effects of enslavement and colonialism on the culture and psyche of modern Britain and improve community relations through greater understanding of the shared history.

Built between 1826 and 1827, Beckford’s Tower was intended to house the collections of books, furniture, and art that were owned by William Beckford, whose wealth was gained from his ownership of plantations and enslaved people in Jamaica. Beckford would ride up to the Tower from his townhouse in Bath’s Lansdown Crescent every morning before breakfast, and enjoyed its solitude and the panoramic views from the Belvedere at the top.

Today Beckford’s Tower is owned and run by Beckford Tower Trust, part of Bath Preservation Trust. The landmark is a Grade 1 listed monument and is the only museum in the world dedicated to the life and work of William Beckford. In 2019, the Tower was added to the National ‘At Risk’ Register, sparking a major project to raise the necessary funds to repair and restore the Tower, transform the museum, open up the landscape and create opportunities for volunteering, formal learning and community engagement. In 2022, thanks to a £3million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the fundraising target of £3.9 million was reached. £480,000 of partnership funding had already been secured, with support from Historic England, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Medlock Charitable Trust, Historic Houses Foundation, Pilgrim Trust, and several other organisations, as well as £50,000 in public donations. This second grant of £100,000 will enable Beckford’s Tower to deliver the Cane Warriors project, which will compliment the wider work taking place at the Tower.

State of Trust Cane Warriors Meeting

Commenting on the new project, Director of Museums Claire Dixon said: “One of our main priorities at Beckford’s Tower is to ensure the transparent and sensitive portrayal of William Beckford’s troubling legacy; as his building and collecting was funded through his ownership of plantations it is vital that this is made clear in the regeneration of the Tower and its new exhibition. We approached State of Trust owing to their reputation for delivering powerful performances that tackle challenging social themes, and we look forward to working with them on this exciting project. It will enable us to explore more creative and artistic events, engage new and more diverse audiences, and embed this approach in the new museum programme when it opens in 2024. I would like to thank The National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery players for their support in helping us to fully contextualise and reconfigure the story of Beckford’s Tower for a modern-day audience.”

Deborah Baddoo MBE and Steve Marshall, the Directors at State of Trust and State of Emergency Limited, said: “We are delighted that Heritage Lottery has agreed to fund the R&D phase of Cane Warriors. When Alex Wheatle first approached us, nearly three years ago, with a view to our making a dance interpretation of his novel, we didn’t realise what an uphill struggle it would be to achieve funding. Thanks to Bath Preservation Trust, and the synergy between the story and the history of Beckford’s Tower, we are now able to start working on what we believe will be an important work of African contemporary dance theatre. This production will allow us to pursue a long-term artistic vision, which began with the foundation of State of Emergency Limited in 1986, and to hone our skills as directors and performers. For us Cane Warriors is the natural progression of all that has gone before. Working alongside the history of Beckford’s Tower, this project can make the connection between historic buildings in our local communities and the transatlantic slave trade, and reveal their hidden histories. We feel it is very important to reach and engage with people, particularly young people, on this subject, and through a range of activities, including workshops in schools, and online events, we know we can make a difference. Through the media of dance, music, and film, we aim to bring the story to life, to animate history in a way that is relevant and impactful to our contemporary lives, to get beyond the facts and to achieve a level of understanding and truth.”

author headshot

Alex Wheatle MBE

Alex Wheatle MBE, author of Cane Warriors, said: “The real story of Chief Tacky’s rebellion has been passed down through generations of my mother’s family who resided in Richmond, St Mary’s parish in Jamaica—very close to the plantations where Chief Tacky and his Cane Warriors toiled and planned their Easter rebellion in 1760. I was simply compelled to relate this story to the wider world, and I’m very proud that State of Emergency will tell the story in the art form of dance. Indeed, the Cane Warriors will be honoured.”

Stuart McLeod, Director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Inclusive heritage is very important to us at The National Lottery Heritage Fund which is why we are proud to support projects that engage people with the complexity of our history. This project will help broaden everyone’s understanding of Beckford and tell his story and its significance to Bath. Our history can teach us a great deal about ourselves and who we want to be, and we encourage people to explore, understand, and learn from it.”

Iris Moon and Rachel Silberstein on Feminist Revisions of Chinoiserie

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on March 12, 2023

An upcoming research seminar at the Paul Mellon Centre:

Iris Moon and Rachel Silberstein on Feminist Revisions of Chinoiserie
Online and in-person, Paul Mellon Centre, London, Wednesday, 22 March 2023, 5–7pm

Part of the series ‘In Conversation: New Directions in Art History’, which will explore the changing modes and methodologies of approaching visual and material worlds. Book tickets here.

Iris Moon — The Woman in the Mirror

Woman with a Pipe, ca. 1760–80, reverse-painted crown glass, imitation lacquer frame, 52 × 40 × 3 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Larry and Ann Burns Gift, in honor of Austin B. Chinn, 2022.52).

Chinoiserie, a style of decoration that emerged in early modern Europe, has typically been pictured as a neutral, harmless, and nostalgic fantasy of the ‘exotic’ Far East, one that was embodied by the traffic, trade and ravenous consumption of luxury objects such as mirrors, wallpaper, furniture, and porcelain. Though Chinoiserie is often pictured as encompassing a wide field of material production, it has rarely been considered as part of the contested forms of subjectivity that emerged in the eighteenth century. This presentation proposes that we rethink the history of Chinoiserie. It asks what a feminist approach to Chinoiserie might look like, and what the ramifications are for British decorative arts in positioning Chinoiserie at the inflection point of racialised and gendered forms of subjectivity that continue to exert a hold on the present. Building on a rich and growing body of critical and theoretical literature, the presentation nonetheless anchors the discussion of Chinoiserie in a formal analysis of a group of reverse-painted mirrors made for the British market. These eighteenth-century mirrors picture women, both real and imagined, in different modes of dress and postures, painted on the reverse side of the glass scraped of its reflective surface. Scholars have relegated these export objects to a secondary status, considering them as trade paintings of little artistic merit, refusing in turn to probe the subtle and complex questions they raise about gender, identity, power, representation, and reflection. Yet these are the questions that materialise when standing before the mirrors. You ask: Who is the woman in the mirror? Myself or another? Where do I position myself? Who am I supposed to be?

Iris Moon is an assistant curator in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she is responsible for European ceramics and glass. At The Met, she participated in the reinstallation of the British Galleries, and she is currently planning an exhibition on Chinoiserie, women, and the porcelain imaginary that will open in 2025. She is the author of Luxury after the Terror, and co-editor with Richard Taws of Time, Media, and Visuality in Post-Revolutionary France. A new book on Wedgwood, generously supported by a publication grant from the Paul Mellon Centre, will be published next year with MIT Press. In addition to curatorial work, she teaches at Cooper Union.

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Rachel Silberstein — The Women on the Garment

Chinese material culture offers several routes for a feminist approach to Chinoiserie. One could counter its insistence on the generic Chinese woman by exploring histories of specific Chinese women: the Qing dynasty social counterparts of the privileged European women who purchased Chinoiserie silks, porcelains, and mirrors. Their consumption, especially of textiles and fashion, offers an arena of specificity, agency, and control that refutes Chinoiserie’s imagined Qing beauties: languorous and ahistorical. Alternatively, one could consider a different counterpart: Qing society’s engagement with images of European women. Though such imagery may not have travelled far beyond the imperial palace, recent scholarship has clarified how European textiles, architecture, and dress fascinated those elites able to access such new visualities, introduced by Jesuit missionaries, print culture, and the East India Companies.

But perhaps most intriguing when considering Chinoiserie’s potential for contesting female subjectivities is to understand it not as a European fantasy unrelated to Chinese practice, but rather a shared global visual space whose dynamic was driven by fashion. Accordingly, the presentation focuses on a genre of Qing fashion: the embroidered figures of beauties that adorned the fabrics and trimmings of the mid-late period jackets, robes, and accessories. Similar to the eighteenth-century mirror designed for a European consumer, these embroideries depict women, both real and imagined, in different postures and dress. In the same way as the eighteenth-century mirror, the embroideries derived from imagery circulating in pattern books and print culture. Yet, these embroideries were produced for Chinese female consumers and, in an intriguing act of self-referentiality, the female figures were placed on the very surface that covered the female wearer’s body. By showing how this fashion trend traversed different media, cities, and classes, this presentation explores how it allowed Chinese women a way of exploring identity by playing with narrative, and how this figural bricolage can be understood alongside European women’s consumption of Chinoiserie.

Rachel Silberstein is currently an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Florida. She has also taught courses in fashion history and art history at Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Washington, and the University of Puget Sound. Her research focuses on textiles, dress, and fashion in Chinese and global history. Her monograph, A Fashionable Century: Textile Artistry and Commerce in the Late Qing (University of Washington Press, 2020)—a study of fashion and textile handicrafts in early modern China—won the Costume Society of America’s Millia Davenport Publication Award 2021. Rachel has published widely on Qing fashion in the journals West 86th, Fashion Theory, Costume, and Late Imperial China. Forthcoming publications include an essay on Ming-Qing Fashion in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Global Fashion. She has also served as a consultant on Chinese dress collections and exhibits at museums including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry, and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

Seminar | Anthony Downey and Maya Ganesh on AI and Images

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on March 2, 2023

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From the PMC:

Anthony Downey and Maya Ganesh | Neo-Colonial Visions: Artificial Intelligence and Epistemic Violence
In-person and online, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 15 March 2023, 5pm

Part of the series In Conversation: New Directions in Art History, which will explore the changing modes and methodologies of approaching visual and material worlds. Running from January to March 2023.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), often presented as an objective ‘view from nowhere’, constitutes a regime of power that further establishes historical forms of bias and evolving models of subjugation. A key component in this process, this presentation will suggest, involves the extraction of data from digital images in order to train AI. How, therefore, do we understand the transformation of images from their symbolic and representational contexts to their contemporary function as sources of digital data? Bringing together researchers in the field of visual culture and AI technology, and taking as its starting point the representational biases of colonial imagery, Anthony Downey and Maya Indira Ganesh will explore how the digital image has increasingly become the means to extract, archive and repurpose information. Based on the extraction and statistical repurposing of data, they will observe how AI renders entire communities susceptible to encoded and overt forms of epistemological violence. Designed for the purpose of training machine vision and the apparatus of AI, these repurposed “images” reveal, furthermore, how the extractive practices of colonialism have become inexorably aligned with corporate interests and neo-colonial economies of data extraction.

Book tickets here»

Anthony Downey is an academic, author, and editor. He is Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa (Birmingham City University). He sits on the editorial boards of Third Text (Routledge), Journal of Digital War (Palgrave Macmillan), and Memory, Mind & Media (Cambridge University Press). He is the series editor for Research/Practice (Sternberg Press, 2019–ongoing). Recent and upcoming publications include Algorithmic Anxieties and Post-Digital Futures (forthcoming, MIT Press, 2024); Nida Sinnokrot: Palestine is Not a Garden (Sternberg Press and MIT Press, 2023); Khalil Rabah: Falling Forward/Works (1995–2025) (Sharjah Art Foundation and Hatje Cantz, 2022); Topologies of Air: Shona Illingworth (Sternberg Press and the Power Plant, 2021); and Heba Y Amin: The General’s Stork (Sternberg Press, 2020). Downey is the cultural and commissioning lead on a four-year multi-disciplinary AHRC Network Plus award, where his research focuses on cultural practices, digital methods, and educational provision for children with disabilities in Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Jordan (2020–2024). This award was preceded by an AHRC Development award in 2019. In 2020, Downey curated Heba Y. Amin: When I See the Future (at the Mosaic Rooms, London), and in 2022, he curated Heba Y. Amin: When I See the Future, Chapter II (Zilberman Gallery, Berlin).

Maya Indira Ganesh is a cultural scientist, researcher, and writer working on the social and cultural politics of AI, autonomous and machine learning systems. She is a senior researcher at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence and an assistant professor, co-teaching a masters programme on AI, ethics, and society at the University of Cambridge. Ganesh earned her PhD in cultural sciences from Leuphana University, Lüneburg. Her work examined the reshaping of the ‘ethical’ through the driverless car, an apparatus of automation and automobility, big data, cultural imaginaries of robots, and practices of statistical inference. Before turning to academic work, Maya Indira Ganesh spent a decade as a feminist activist working at the point of intersection of gender justice, digital security, and digital freedoms of expression. Her work has consistently brought questions of power, justice, and inequality to those of the body, the digital, and knowledge making.

Robbie Richardson and Ruth Phillips on Indigenous Objects Abroad

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on February 21, 2023

Profile of a smoking pipe on black background

Smoking-pipe, 1600–1750, soapstone, 9.5 × 10 × 5.5 cm (London: The British Museum, Am1991,09.1). As noted in the catalogue entry: “The pipe bowl is from the painter Benjamin West’s studio, and was used as a model in both Death of Wolfe and Penn’s Treaty with the Indians.”

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From the Mellon Centre:

Robbie Richardson and Ruth Phillip on Indigenous Objects Abroad
Online and in-person, Paul Mellon Centre, London, Wednesday, 1 March 2023, 5–7pm

Part of the series ‘In Conversation: New Directions in Art History’, which will explore the changing modes and methodologies of approaching visual and material worlds. Book tickets here.

Robbie Richardson | ‘Peace Pipes’ in Europe: Collecting the Calumet in the Eighteenth Century

This talk will consider early European collections of Indigenous tobacco pipes, often called ‘peace pipes’ or calumets (a word of French origin). Described as “the most mysterious thing in the world” by seventeenth-century Jesuits for their perceived power and significance among south-eastern nations, pipes would over time become one of the ubiquitous icons of Indigeneity in western eyes. Part of their inscrutability from the British perspective was that their own tobacco pipes were ephemeral and disposable, with many even still washing up daily on the shores of the Thames.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, one of the most popular trade goods which Europeans brought to Indigenous nations were steel European-manufactured ‘pipe-tomahawks’, which blended metaphors of peace and war. The manifestation of this transcultural object is itself revealing of the complex dynamics of material cultural production. Notwithstanding their provenance in Sheffield and Birmingham steel mills, pipe-tomahawks became widely collected as Indigenous curiosities by British soldiers and collectors. This talk will discuss British representations of Indigenous diplomacy and spirituality through their understanding and collecting of the calumet. It will look at several of the pipes that found their ways into European collections, to unravel Indigenous practices and agency.

Robbie Richardson is Assistant Professor of English at Princeton University and the author of The Savage and Modern Self: North American Indians in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2018). He has recent chapters in Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain: A Nation of Makers (Bloomsbury, 2020) and in Small Things in the Eighteenth Century: The Political and Personal Value of the Miniature (Cambridge University Press, 2022), and forthcoming pieces in Studies in Romanticism, Eighteenth-Century Studies, and Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation. He is currently working on a monograph about Indigenous objects from the Americas and South Pacific in Europe up until the end of the eighteenth century. He is a citizen of Pabineau Mi’kmaq First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada.

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Ruth Phillips | Curiosity and Belonging: Legacies of Eighteenth-Century Collecting in the Twenty-First Century

This talk will examine two contrasting modes of engagement between Europeans and Indigenous peoples in eighteenth-century North America and how these interactions led to the formation of public and private collections. It will urge that in the twenty-first century developing accurate understandings of eighteenth-century collecting practices can usefully disrupt assumptions about the restitution of Indigenous cultural belongings.

The periodic wars waged for colonial control of eastern North America brought tens of thousands of British, French, German and Swiss soldiers into the region. Both officers and common soldiers were avid collectors of curiosities for themselves, to present to patrons and family members, and to resell at a profit. Indigenous makers, for their part, actively produced finely made ornaments, pipes, moccasins and other items for the trade, acquiring in return: guns and tools that made hunting and warfare more effective; rum, tea, pottery, woollen cloth and printed cottons that made life more enjoyable; and silk ribbons, woollen yarn, glass beads, needles, thread and manufactured wampum beads that stimulated artistic creativity. There could also, however, have been other reasons for an Indigenous maker to produce these items for outsiders, for they were also presented in diplomatic negotiations to ratify treaty agreements and in ritual adoptions that transformed a military officer or a colonial official into a member of an Indigenous kin group who could be expected to support its interests.

Contemporary Indigenous peoples are actively tracing their cultural belongings in museum collections as part of a larger process of decolonisation that aims to recover histories of Indigenous agency and heal the damages and losses enacted by centuries of colonial rule. This talk argues that restitution, if conducted in ignorance of the historical circumstances of gifting or trade, risks, on the one hand, denying the agency of Indigenous peoples who chose to engage in curiosity production and, on the other, disappearing the material embodiments of agreements that, although made long ago, still demand to be recognised and honoured.

Ruth B. Phillips is Professor of Art History Emerita at Carleton University, Ottawa where she was also appointed to a Canada Research Chair in Modern Culture. She earned her PhD in African art history at SOAS, University of London, and has since focused on Indigenous North American arts and museology. As director of the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia from 1997 to 2002 she initiated a major renewal of the museum’s digital and physical research infrastructure adapted to collaborative research with Indigenous peoples. She is the author of Trading Identities: The Souvenir in Native North American Arts from the Northeast, 1700–1900; Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums; and Native North American Art, with Janet Catherine Berlo. With Nicholas Thomas she organised the Multiple Modernisms project to address Indigenous modernisms in a global comparative framework, co-editing its first publication, Mapping Modernisms: Art, Indigeneity, Colonialism with Elizabeth Harney, and its second, Mediating Modernisms: Indigenous Artists, Modernist Mediators, Global Networks, with Norman Vorano. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the American Anthropological Society and the Universities Art Association of Canada.

Online Symposium | Design, Description, and Discovery in Cataloging

Posted in conferences (to attend), online learning by Editor on February 19, 2023

From the Hood Museum of Art:

Terms of Art: Design, Description, and Discovery in Cataloging
Online, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, 22–24 February 2023

Institutions such as museums, libraries, and archives have a mission to preserve, interpret, and disseminate cultural heritage. In addition to new acquisitions for their collections, these institutions must also update the tools with which researchers access and study these holdings, objects, and works of art. Increasingly, stakeholders like academics, educators, and the public treat a collection’s digital representation—its metadata records—as an entry point for discovery. Paradoxically, these web-based experiences meant to expose collections to broad audiences often assume users have specialized knowledge of the terms and processes GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) institutions use to describe their own work, making them inaccessible to the majority of visitors. Additionally, variation and evolution of language often outpaces or does not align with public understanding. For example, someone interested in 17th-century Dutch art might not know that the phrase “Dutch Golden Age” has colonialist implications and has been removed from many museums’ internal databases. The search language isn’t wrong, it’s just outmoded.

The Hood Museum of Art and Dartmouth Research Computing have organized a virtual symposium to bring together museums, libraries, and archives to discuss issues of access and ethical vocabularies in cultural heritage. The goal is to develop the debate about how the language we use to describe collections impacts the communities that create and seek out art. The organizers hope to prompt dialogue on the issues curators and researchers face in trying to maintain equitable and anti-racist progress and research. Additionally, this symposium will emphasize the role of technologists who specialize in user-centered design as critical to promoting equity in information systems. In combining subject-matter specialists and user-centered design technologists, we aim to bridge the communication gap between institutions and the publics they serve, allowing each to educate the other about how they describe collections. The symposium is free and open to all. Click here to register.

More information about each session is available here»

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Times are Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5)

9.30  Welcome
• Ashley Offill, Associate Curator of Collections, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth
• Elizabeth Rice Mattison, Andrew W. Mellon Associate Curator of Academic Programming, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth
• John Bell, Program Director, Data Experiences and Visualizations Studio, Dartmouth
• Meredith Steinfels, Assistant Director, Digital Platforms, Media & Archives, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth

10.00  Reparative Archival Description at Rauner Library
• Caro Langenbucher, Processing Specialist, Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth
• Joshua Shaw, Library Web and Application Developer, Digital Library Technologies Group, Dartmouth
• Richel Cuyler, Cultural Heritage Technical Developer, Dartmouth
Moderator: Peter Carini, Archivist, Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth

11.00  Continuing the Conversation
This informal 30-minute Zoom session is intended to provide a space for attendees to continue the dialogue from the previous session. Participants are encouraged to connect, brainstorm, and ideate. This session will not be recorded.

12.00  The Spectacle of Bodily Difference in Georgian England: A Case Study in Describing Visual and Textual Representations of Bodily Differences in Historic Printed Materials
• Alex Kither, Curator of Printed Heritage Collections, The British Library

12.30  Case Study: Leveraging the Authority of Labels to Align Design with Diverse Audiences
• Kiersten Thamm, Collections Curator, Museum of 21st-Century Design

1.30  Trouble with the Curve: Describing and Cataloguing Ornament
• Elizabeth Saari Browne, Remote Senior Research Cataloguer, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
• Adrienne Childs, Independent Scholar, Art Historian, Curator
• Rachel Jacobs, Remote Senior Research Cataloger, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
• Hazel Wilkinson, Associate Professor, University of Birmingham

2.30  Continuing the Conversation

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9.30  Open Office Hours with Elizabeth Rice Mattison: Cataloguing Complex Heritage and Data

10.00  Alt Text Power Hour
• Amelia Mylvaganam, Curatorial Research Aide, The Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University
• Melanie Garcia Sympson, Curatorial Associate for Collections Information and Digital Interpretation, The Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University

11.00  Continuing the Conversation

12.00  Case Study: Tag Along with Adler
• Jessica BrodeFrank, Senior Manager of Digital Management Services, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Doctoral Candidate the University of London School of Advanced Studies

12.30  Case Study: Assessing the Application of a Locally-Developed Controlled Vocabulary
• Hannah M. Jones, 2022 LEADING Fellow, Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC
• Mark E. Phillips, Associate Dean for Digital Libraries, University of North Texas Libraries
• Hannah Tarver, Head, Digital Projects Unit, University of North Texas Libraries
• Ana Krahmer, Director, Texas Digital Newspaper Program, University of North Texas Libraries

1.30  Case Study: Casting Terms
• Milena Gallipoli, Head of Research, Museo de la Cárcova and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Argentina

2.00  Case Study: The Office of Art and Archives, US House of Representatives
• Michelle Strizever, Photography and Digital Content Specialist, U.S. House of Representatives, Office of Art and Archives
• Mackenzie Miessau, Registrar, U.S. House of Representatives, Office of Art and Archives

2.30  Open Office Hours with Brinker Ferguson: 3D Documentation, Archiving, and Dissemination of Cultural Heritage Objects

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9.00  Designing and Curating East Asia Art in the Digital Age
• Janet Fong, Research Assistant Professor (Curating), Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University
• Harald Kraemer, Curator, University of Hong Kong, University Museum and Art Gallery
• Shuo Sue Hua, Assistant Curator (Postdoc Research Fellow), University of Hong Kong, University Museum and Art Gallery
• Ying Liu, Curator (Director of Digital Archive Department), Zhejiang Art Museum (ZJAM) and Associate Director, Chinese Artists Association Print Art Committee – Zhejiang Province, China
• Zhu Yi, Ph.D. Candidate, Lingnan University

10.00  Continuing the Conversation

10.30  Roundtable and Workshop: Curationist.org
• Sharon Mizota, DEI Metadata Consultant
• Amanda Acosta, Digital Archivist, MHz Foundation
• Christina Stone, Digital Archivist, MHz Foundation
• Ravon Ruffin, Educational Programs Manager, MHz Foundation

11.30  Continuing the Conversation

12.00  Open Office Hours: Media Preservation with John Bell

12.30  Open Office Hours: Student-Led Projects and Initiatives with Ashley Offill

1.30  Terms of Art: Reflection, Dialogue, and Facilitating Change



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