Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2019 17:56:03 +0100
Subject: CONF: The Mind in the Matter (London, 27 Mar 19)
From: Adriana Turpin <>
Date: Mar 18, 2019
Subject: CONF: The Mind in the Matter (London, 27 Mar 19)

Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St., London WC1E 7HU, March 27, 2019
Registration deadline: Mar 25, 2019



Research Workshop

Psychology informs us about what drives an individual to collect. In the Enlightenment, the human mind was often analysed and discussed by means of metaphors and analogies borrowed from the world of collecting. In the nineteenth-century, the stereotypes surrounding the monomaniac, eccentric or perverse collector was codified in the art press and through fiction. In the twentieth century, the topic was treated at length by scholars such as Werner Munsterberger, often working in an explicitly psychoanalytic framework. Whilst this Freudian approach has been subject to intense criticism in the past thirty years, many scholars continue to interpret collecting in terms of categories such as ‘lack’, ‘surrogacy’, ‘desire’ and ‘loss’.

Join us for a workshop that investigates the extent to which psychological models are still valid and necessary to understand collecting as a human activity. Is there a tension between the universalising psychological theories and the drive to study collecting historically? What sources are particularly useful or revealing for uncovering the collector’s motivations or relations to his objects? What can recent developments in psychology and neuroscience add to our understanding? How far can or should we enter the interior life of a collector, and what role does imagination play in communicating these insights to new audiences? And what are the meaningful alternatives, apart from opportunistic acquisitions; to a psychological approach of the study of collecting – can we ever escape from this way of thinking?


9.30- Registration

10.00- Welcome and Introductory Remarks

10.10- “I Became a Perfect Vellomaniac”: Thomas Phillipps and his manuscript collection
Dr Toby Burrows, Senior Researcher, Oxford University

10.30- Charles Robert Cockerell and Perceiving the Past c.1820
Professor Susan Pearce, Professor Emeritus of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester

10.50- Interpreting interior spaces: an insight into the mind of the collector
Dr, Isobel Macdonald, University of Glasgow and The Burrell Collection.

11.10- Questions

11.30- Coffee Break

11.50- The Mind of a Collector
Professor John Harrison, Associate Professor at the Alzheimer Center at the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam and a Visiting Professor with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London

12.10- The Work of The Wildgoose Memorial Library: Collecting & Recovering the Past from ‘Somewhere Outside the Realm, Beyond the Reach of Intellect’
Dr Jane Wildgoose, artist, writer, and NESTA Fellow, co-leader of the Material Thinking and Creative Practice Module, MA Museum and Galleries/Heritage and Contemporary Practice at Kingston University

12.30- Acquiring art today: Studying the motives and process of the contemporary collector
Shaune Arp, Gagosian Gallery, New York and Geneva

12.50- Questions

13.10- Roundtable/ Closing Remarks

Please register for your place on Eventbrite:

Tickets are free for students and £10 for members.  For any enquiries about the event, please contact

Organizing committee: Tom Stammers, Adriana Turpin, Eleni Vassilika

Reference / Quellennachweis:
CONF: The Mind in the Matter (London, 27 Mar 19). In:, Mar 18, 2019. <>.

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As it has been brought to our attention that some participants are concerned that the Society is hosting its annual workshop at the Institute of Historical Research in spite of a boycott called by the IGBW of activities taking place at the University of London. While we fully support bringing all University of London staff in-house, we are also very aware of our responsibility to the IHR and the consequences of removing the events we have programmed from the Institute. The director of the IHR, Professor Jo Fox, wrote to all those using the IHR, confirming her determination to resolve the issues of the outsourcing of staff and her active support for all staff at the Institute. All those who use the Institute are well aware of the importance of these members of staff to its ability to carry out its role of being a centre for historical activities.

In taking this decision to continue to hold our events at the IHR, we have however, also taken into account the impact that removing them would entail. As historians, we recognise the important role played by the IHR in supporting historical research and debate through its seminars and research facilities. At the moment, as funding is increasingly difficult to procure and support from the London colleges that used to finance the Institute, it is in a vulnerable position. This is at a time when the study of history is also being challenged. Removing all events from the IHR would not only weaken its position as a hub of historical activity, it could threaten its very existence.

Furthermore, although we agree that the University has been slow to recognise the problems created by the consequences of outsourcing their staff, they have confirmed that plans are in place to make changes by the end of May. As with other groups associated with the IHR, we will follow those and take note of progress in this regard with the planning of further events at the IHR.

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