The Society for the History of Collecting

Invites you to its New Series: Diversifying the History of Collecting

We are delighted to announce the first events of a new programme designed to diversify research into the history of collecting. Our first session will be dedicated to the role of women in the history of collecting, a topic of growing scholarly interest and public importance in recent years. Across two events, spaced one week apart, we will be exploring key issues such as women’s agency in the formation and disposition of collections; to what extent trends in collecting index bigger changes in women’s legal and social position; how far collecting has been understood historically in reference to gendered stereotypes and conventions; what research methods and documents are especially valuable in recovering female collectors; and the visibility of women and women’s history within public collections, and how it might be rectified.  Organised by Tom Stammers (Durham University), Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth (V&A) and John Chu (National Trust), this is the first of a series of sessions to take place over the year.

Tuesday 24, November, 2020

Lecture at 17.30 GMT
Recollecting Fair Women (Meaghan Clark, University of Sussex)

While we now know a great deal about male patrons, connoisseurs and museum directors in late nineteenth-century Britain, the contributions of women are less well-known. Yet if we turn to visual evidence at the turn of the century female visitors are invariably present in art galleries and museums. What were these women doing and why were they significant for exhibition culture? This lecture will explore the role of women as patrons, collectors and exhibition lenders in the context of a ‘blockbuster’ exhibition, entitled Fair Women, held at the Grafton Galleries in 1894.

Meaghan Clarke is a Senior Lecturer of Art History at the University of Sussex. Her new book is entitled Fashionability, Exhibition Culture and Gender Politics: Fair Women (2020). She is the author of Critical Voices: Women and Art Criticism in Britain 1880-1905 (2005; 2017) and her recent articles include, ‘Women in the Galleries: New Angles on Old Masters in the Late Nineteenth Century’ 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century (2019) and ‘“The Greatest Living Critic”: Christiana Herringham and the Practice of Connoisseurship’ Visual Resources (2017). She has published essays and articles in collections and journals including Tate, Art History, RACAR, Henry James Review and Visual Culture in Britain.

Imogen Tedbury (National Gallery, London) will act as respondent to the lecture.


Roundtable at 19.00 GMT 

This roundtable discussion will look at the challenge of highlighting women’s histories, agency and contribution within public collections. Senior curators and specialists from heritage organisations will reflect on past and present initiatives to spotlight women’s stories within their institution. They will reflect on why women’s cultural contribution has often been concealed and how successfully it can be revealed for the museum public. The distinguished panel of speakers includes Susanna Avery-Quash (National Gallery), Sally-Anne Huxtable(National Trust), June Hill and Lotte Crawford (Two Temple Place) and Polly Russell (British Library).

Jo Norman (V&A) will chair the discussion

PLEASE NOTE:  If you are not able to enter the event please email us at


Tuesday, 1 December, 2020

Workshop at 19.00 GMT

This workshop welcomes postgraduate and early career scholars who are engaged with women as collectors and the gendered history of collecting. This is a friendly and informal way to make new contacts and showcase some new work in the field. Speakers include Natasha Shoory (Durham University), Sara French (Sussex University), Madeleine Pelling (York University) and Lizzie Rogers (Hull University).

Pre-registration for this workshop is essential for members and non-members. To register please write to

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