CFP Consuming the Country House: from acquisition to presentation


University of Northampton, 18-19 April 2012

Keynote speakers include:
Helen Clifford, University of Warwick
Yme Kuiper, University of Groningen
Ruth Gill, Historic Royal Palaces

The country house can be seen as a palimpsest: generations of owners adding their own material objects and layers of meaning. This presents challenges to both historians and curators – how to understand the relationship between new and old goods; how to assess the meaning of goods in different contexts, and how to present a coherent narrative of the house and its contents to the visitor today. Linked to this is the need to see the country house as dynamic: a lived and living space which was consciously transformed according to fashion or personal taste, but which was also changed by accident, decay and dispersal. Moreover, the country house was a nexus of flows as goods were brought in from the estate, the surrounding area and more distant centres – most notably London. How do these links shape our understanding and interpretation of the country house? In paying more attention to the processes of consumption, attention is focused on social and economic aspects of the country house – a broadening of perspective which can offer a more rounded view of the elite. The country house is often seen as a symbol of wealth and power, but the economics of running such properties (in the present as well as the past) and the experience of everyday life (of owners as well as servants) deserve more attention.

This conference seeks to address such questions, drawing on comparisons with other European countries to throw new light on our understanding of consumption and the country house. More broadly, it seeks to bridge the persistent divide between historians’ interpretations of elite consumption and the material culture of the country house, and attempts by owners, managers and curators to interpret and present the country house to visitors.

We invite papers discussing any aspect of consumption, material culture and the country house, both in the past and the present. However, we would especially welcome those focusing on:
Supplying the country house: food and drink, furniture, local and imported goods, etc.
The country house as lived/living space – room use (then) and using rooms (now); the (different?) role of men and women; the relationships between and spaces of masters and servants
Collecting or consuming – motivations to consume; the economics of acquisition; European and oriental influences
Old and new – the role of fashion; buying second-hand; the emerging taste for antiques; the country house as palimpsest; rearranging the furniture (by owners and for presentation)
Material culture and the country house interior – aesthetics of interior design; the meaning of goods and their arrangement (past and present)
Continuities and contrasts: comparisons between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; of London and provinces; across Europe
The impact of the country house visitor in the past and present: changing attitudes; national differences; broadening markets and access to houses
Interpreting and presenting the country house: using new technologies and approaches (e.g. live interpretation); different approaches across space and time

If you would like to present a paper, then please send a c.300 word abstract to: Prof Jon Stobart: by 15 December 2011.

Leave a Reply