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Race, Empire and the Pre-Raphaelites: Empire and the Everyday Object

12 May 2022 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Image of a small, rectangular wooden box with a decorative pattern set into the lid.


Over the past 25 years, historians have explored the various ways in which imperialism permeated life in Britain. This session focuses specifically on the connections between objects in daily use, empire, and migration. It explores how our everyday objects today can be placed into dialogue with nineteenth-century collections. It asks how museums might work with community collections in recasting histories of art, design and empire.

The session will begin with a plenary talk by artist-documenter and storyteller Alison Solomon. Alison has just embarked upon an AIM and National Lottery Heritage funded project with the Royal Crown Derby Museum, which seeks to explore who collects Royal Crown Derby porcelain, and what the connection is between such collections and our sense of home. The project’s initial focus will be on collecting and documenting stories from British Caribbean collectors of Royal Crown Derby; Alison notes that

“Many of the African-Caribbean people that emigrated to the UK and settled in Derby, collect Royal Crown Derby. The enjoyment of these high craftsmanship products signified a joining of old and new: the beauty and remembrance of the Caribbean (the home they left behind), and the appreciation of collecting, owning, displaying, and enjoying luxury items of historical and local significance that represents their home now.”

Alison will provide an overview of the project in a talk entitled “Home Is Where The Art Is: ‘Collecting Home,’ a story of co-production.”

The remainder of the session will be based around breakout room discussion. Each participant will be asked to bring along an object from their home from any time period which connects to stories of empire and migration. This might be, for example, a tea cup (connected to the global tea trade); a mobile phone (the rare earth metals as an example of extraction of resources during colonialism and in today’s unequal postcolonial relationships); a bar of chocolate; something made of cotton; a print or photograph. There are lots of possibilities.

We will be exploring the following questions in relation to these objects:

1) What stories about empire might your everyday objects tell?

2) How can nineteenth-century museum collections be placed into meaningful dialogue with community collections of everyday objects with similar stories to tell?


12 May 2022
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


Online Event


Race, Empire and the Pre-Raphaelites Research Group
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