Tag Archives: urban history

Next AHRC workshop announced – Museum of London Cheapside Hoard Exhibition

Emerald-Watch-2It’s time to register for the next workshop! Come and join us to continue the discussion about the relationship between different kinds of pre-modern materiality and how we analyse and display them…

Following on from the first two in the series of AHRC Collaborative Skills Development workshops hosted by the Museum of London at The London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre, and University of London Senate House Library, the third workshop will take place at the Museum of London. This workshop will examine the practicalities and challenges of displaying objects in museum exhibits.

An initial session will examine a small group artefacts relating to death and mourning from the early modern period and formulate ways that such themes might be interpreted in a display for a variety of different audiences. After having worked up ideas and possible strategies for delivering textual information and display requirements, an area of the Museum of London’s War, Plague and Fire gallery will be studied to learn how objects and text come together in practical terms as part of a grand narrative of an exhibit. This will be followed by a visit to the Museum’s temporary Cheapside Hoard exhibition. Here, the focus will be on analysing specifically the design of a major exhibit and how visitors engage with very small objects as well as related supporting content, reconstructions and illustrative material.

To register go to: http://www.history.ac.uk/research-training/courses/methodologies-material-culture-iii


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Covering the ground in early modern London: object biographies at LAARC

P1000475This late sixteenth-/ early seventeenth-century floor tile with a picture of a grasshopper on it was found on the site of Baynard’s Castle, Upper Thames Street. It is London-made tin-glazed earthenware, intricately painted in green, yellow, two shades of blue and mauve. It is one of the objects that a group of postgraduate students and early career researchers spent the day learning to look at in detail at LAARC – the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre – at the first of a series (watch this space) of AHRC-funded Skills Development workshops on the theme of ‘Methodologies for material culture’.

With the expert help of Alex Werner, Head of History Collections at the Museum of London, and Roy Stephenson, Head of the Museum’s Archaeological Collections and Archives, we tried our hands at constructing biographies of early modern urban things. P1000470This tile was made in Southwark and found at the site of the Royal Exchange when it was rebuilt in the nineteenth century – it has a quarter of a Tudor rose in the top left hand corner, completed as the pattern was repeated. Seeing the two tiles together, you begin to get a sense of London floors – of the complex, self-consciously showy and fashionable Renaissance patterns on which the city’s elite might have been walking around the turn of the century. There are tempting connections between the site of this tile and the image on the previous one too – can we read Thomas Gresham’s emblem in the half a grasshopper and put that together with the floor of the Exchange which he had built? What kind of a map of London pavements would that give us? The answer has to be ‘probably not’! But the kind of biographies these objects invite was the question the day set us: our instinct as historians seemed to be to try to use them as a series of stepping stones that, placed sequentially, generated a particular kind of narrative that was very focused on specific people and important actions.

P1000579In the final session of the day we were given groups of objects to talk about: part of the Museum of London’s signature shoe collection, a group of pewter from Nonsuch with crossbow bolt-holes in it, and these several brown boxes of pottery. They were found in Southwark, around the time of the great fire of London – at least a whole household’s worth of ceramics, if not more. Our conversations around them moved backwards and forwards from the form, style and function that we had been told to focus on to the reasons for their deposit. Had their owners beat a hasty path over the bridge, fleeing the City in the fire with their prized possessions, only to realise they would not be able to return quickly and therefore dumping these heavy objects with comparatively small intrinsic worth? Had a minor earthquake shattered all the pottery in the house, leaving only pewter, wood and silverware items intact? That desire to create a biography from external events that is not in dialogue with the material quality of the objects seemed almost irresistible. But given time and the experts’ eye we came back to ‘active looking’, to focusing on how these objects worked, both individually and as groups – how wide the charger actually was, why it had holes in the rim for hanging, what the effect of its lavish pattern was in relation to the Bellarmine jugs, for instance. These less pushy, less sensationalist narratives of things were unlikely to relate directly to London’s famous inhabitants or events; more likely to concentrate on the experience of walking through the decorated spaces of the early modern City.


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Materialities of Urban Life – April 17-19th – online booking now open!

screenshotYou can now see the provisional programme (at the bottom of the page) and register for the Materialities of Urban Life (Wednesday,  April 17 – Friday,  April 19 2013) conference here:


If you’re interested in what it was like living in early modern towns – what goods were available and the spaces in which they could be sold and consumed, or just in the material qualities of everyday life more generally in this period then there will be something here to interest you:

There are papers on life in Holland, Sweden, Italy, Scotland, Mons, Milan, London, Paris and Norwich amongst others; and on topics as diverse as disposession, trespass, exercise, lodging, Shakespeare in print, craft guilds and livery companies, tailors, civic colour, candles, relics, silver plate, cabinets, mirrors, musical instruments, portraiture, elite wardrobes, stage costumes, royal courts and blood.

In the next couple of weeks there will be blogs from some of the speakers, so do look out for those and we hope to see you there…

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by | February 21, 2013 · 12:37 pm

Conference: Materialities of Urban Life in Early Modern Europe

screenshotWe’re organising a conference to bring together scholars working on the materiality of urban life, at the Institute of Historical Research in London, 17-19 April 2013. Six of us are involved – names below – from History, Literature, Art History, Archaeology and Museums backgrounds. Many of us were also a part of the very exciting ‘Everyday Objects’ conference, which led to an edited volume of the same name. We have come together again to organise this event because we wanted to open up debate about the particular qualities of public, private, commercial, domestic and civic material cultures to be found in towns across Europe.

So we welcome traditional academic papers and panels from the perspectives of economic and social history, archaeology, art history, museum and literary studies and beyond. We would also be interested in other kinds of presentation – for instance performances and visualisations – which give different kinds of access to the nature of early modern urban experience. We want to know more about European goods and spaces, the actions and emotions with which they were associated, the way they were traded and distributed, embodied experiences, the interactions between individuals and groups, gendered urban materiality, urban landscapes, the ways in which all of the above were influenced by non-European materials and practices, and the methods by which all of these various topics might be addressed.

More information about the conference will be posted here soon. In the mean time, do propose a 20 minute paper, or an hour and a half’s session: send an abstract of no more than 150 words to the conference secretary, Steph Appleton, SJA809@adf.bham.ac.uk or contact any of the organisers:

Professor David Gaimster, The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow: David.Gaimster@glasgow.ac.uk

Dr Tara Hamling, Department of History, University of Birmingham: T.J.Hamling@bham.ac.uk

Professor Maria Hayward, Department of History, University of Southampton: M.Hayward@soton.ac.uk

Dr Mark Merry, Centre for Metropolitan History, Institute of Historical Research, Mark.Merry@sas.ac.uk

Dr Catherine Richardson, Department of English, University of Kent: C.T.Richardson@kent.ac.uk

Dr Glenn Richardson, School of Theology, Philosophy and History, St Mary’s University College: richardg@smuc.ac.uk

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