Seminar Programme

The Institute of Historical Research at the School of Advanced Studies of the University of London hosts our seminar on Collecting & Display. The monthly seminars take place at the Institute, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU. Seminars begin at 6.00 and last approximately one hour. 



The Society for the History of Collecting has recently been formed to encourage communication among scholars in the field through its website and events.  The international forum Collecting and Display  will continue its activities, holding monthly seminars, organising conferences and publishing.  The two organisations are intended to be complementary.  To contact the Society please see its website or email



NEXT SEMINAR:  6 p.m. 

Monday 15th January

Amanda Luyster will speak on


The Use of Text in Networks of Collection. 

Medieval Inventories, Labels, Inscriptions, and Memory

Allow me to begin with a question.  What do an eighth-century Byzantine textile, a fifteenth-century Italian painting, and a twentieth-century silkscreen by Andy Warhol have in common?  The answer: all bear inscriptions that tie them inexorably to larger systems of collecting and collection use.  This association of specific kinds of textual data (names, dates) with a collectable object has a long and, at least in part, understudied history.  In the following presentation, I examine the history of the association of texts with collected objects, focusing on the Middle Ages while remaining attentive to earlier and later traditions. 

 Before the Renaissance and its elevation of the role of the individual artist, probably the most significant association a collected object would have was with the individual who had gifted it (its donor). Medieval collections can be viewed as fluid networks in which donors, recipients, record keepers, and objects like luxury textiles and precious metalwork all play a role.  However, the texts associated with medieval collections, including inventories, gift lists, labels and tags, and inscriptions, are also significant. These textual actors, especially labels and tags, have received scant scholarly attention and yet have significant ramifications. After having laid out evidence for the broad use of tags and labels in collections, both European and Islamic, I make three interconnected arguments for the operation of texts within medieval networks of collection.  These textual components, I suggest, enable the objects to recall (for the people in these networks) particular donors and events – that is, with the aid of texts, collections may act as agents of recollection. 

 First, I argue that inventories, gift lists, labels and tags need to be seen as operating in tandem with certain inscriptions on collected objects (those that include donor information).  Second, I show that all of these texts work to enable different networks of collection (e.g. English thirteenth-century royal treasuries and ecclesiastical treasuries) to function differently.  Finally, I posit that these networks of people, things, and, significantly, texts functioned to make the value of the gift “stick” – they worked to combat the tendency of all historical connections to be forgotten, the tendency of all things to fall apart.  While at first glance, collected objects held in storage seem to be in a passive, dormant state, in fact, these objects and their associated texts participate in acts of collection and recollection that actively preserve not only the objects but also – and, more importantly – the associations that endow them with value.

Amanda Luyster:

Lecturer, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA.  2006-present.

The International Center of Medieval Art.  Elected to Board of Directors, 2017-2020.

 Her recent publications include:

“The Place of a Queen/A Queen and her Places: Jeanne de Navarre’s Kalila and Dimna as a political manuscript in early fourteenth century France.”  In Moving Women, Moving Objects, eds. Tracy Hamilton and Mariah Proctor-Tiffany.  Brill.  Accepted, under revision.

“Drawing Out, Drawing In: Painting, Drawing, Manuscript Illumination, and Book Illustration.” In Mapping the Medieval Mediterranean, c. 300-1550, ed. Amity Law.  Brill.  Forthcoming.

“The Conversion of Kalila and Dimna: Raymond de Béziers, Religious Experience, and Translation at the Fourteenth-Century French Court.”  Gesta, vol. 56, no. 1, 2017: 81-104.

Monday, 12th February 

Grant Lewis will speak on:

‘Visual Knowledge and the Grand Tour: The Print Collection of Walter Bowman’

The Grand Tours of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries have long proved a rich field for historians of collecting, and increasingly this is as much the case for acquisitions of ‘lesser’ arts like prints as for the celebrated purchases of painting and sculpture. Indeed, over the past few decades several Grand Tourists’ print collections have been the subject of in-depth investigations, and in a new contribution to this body of work, this paper will focus on the collection of the Scottish tutor and antiquary Walter Bowman (1699-1782). Surviving in several carefully curated and presented albums of French and Italian views in the National Library of Scotland and the British Library, each with their own fine manuscript title-page, this collection has been totally overlooked by print scholars, so much so that the two proudly signed volumes in the British Library go unmentioned in Bowman’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Yet this is a significant, indeed rare, collection, for unlike the better studied Grand Tour collectors Bowman was not a tourist as such but a cicerone, a guide for foreign travellers, and as a result his collection has a different character from the latters’ aristocratic ones, containing rudimentary and worn out impressions as well as fine art prints, not to mention a distinct function as a dependable educational resource. By bringing together all of the surviving volumes owned by Bowman, this paper aims to provide the foundational study into this intriguing collection, its formation, display, use(s) and ultimate fragmentation, which saw the parts now at the British Library enter the collection of George III.  To this end, it will make use of archival research into Bowman’s little-studied papers, in particular his European travel diary (now Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale), which, covering the same locations as the print collection, demonstrates how visual and textual knowledge were ‘collected’ simultaneously, and devised to complement each other. 

Since 2015 Grant Lewis has been at the British Library: as part of the fledgling prints and drawings team at the British Library responsible for cataloguing King George III’s Topographical Collection, a vast array of some 40-50,000 prints and drawings dating from the 1500s to the 1820s.

Monday 5th March, 2018

Wallis Miller, University of Kentucky will speak on:

Full-scale displays and the reform of architecture in Germany

He is currently working on a book titled Architecture on Display: Exhibitions and the Emergence of Modernism in Germany, 1786-1932. The book uses German case studies to reveal the particular character of an architecture exhibition and demonstrate the ways in which exhibitions contributed to modernism in architecture. He will focus on a specific form of display, the full scale interior, and the ways in which a means of presentation originally developed to portray the past, in the form of the period room, became a catalyst for the early twentieth-century reforms that led to the emergence of Modern Architecture.

In contrast to its use in portraying history, the period room display was appropriated around the turn of the century by applied arts exhibitions in Germany to show the newest work in design. The period room emerged in the 1870s as an ethnographic display tool in Stockholm’s Nordic Museum and, by the 1920s, was firmly associated with exhibiting the past in a range of museums, including ones dedicated to art and applied art. But already around 1900 the period room was used as a model for the displays that realized the theoretical ambition of progressive designers of applied art to “engage art in life” and, in some cases, create a Gesamtkunstwerk [the total work of art]. In the largest exhibition of these rooms, the “Spatial Art” or “Raumkunst” section at “The Third German Applied Arts Exhibition 1906,” held in Dresden, the modernity on display in 150 realistic interiors did not reside in their style, which varied widely. Instead it could be seen in the ambition to create full-scale environments that, like the period rooms, engaged a broad public rather than a limited audience of patrons, and in their identification with “space”. These were two aspects of Modern Architecture that became central when it matured in the Weimar Period. Indeed the exhibition included several designers who soon would become significant modern architects (Henri van de Velde, Peter Behrens and Bruno Paul) and suggested that the applied arts exhibition was the vehicle for introducing the new ideas about the public and space to architecture. The claim that applied art was an agent of change in this crucial period for the development of architecture was advanced in theoretical writings at the time but is seldom recognized in the history of architecture or design, particularly the history that engages the establishment of the German Werkbund, one of the best-known institutional promoters of modern design and architecture from 1907-1933.  He will call attention to the role of applied art in the history of Modern Architecture by arguing that the full-scale displays at exhibitions go beyond the claims of theoretical writings to initiate significant reforms in architecture.

Wallis Miller is the Charles P. Graves Associate Professor of Architecture, July 2001-present at the University of Kentucky, College of Design.   He has also been at The Oslo Centre for Critical Architecture Studies, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design Visiting Scholar, research project “The Printed and the Built” (research, Ph.D. advising, organization), 2014-2018; in residence May-June 2016

His many publications include the following (full text version of selected publications on view at

“Review: The extraordinary coverage of Ludwig Hoffmann’s 1901 ‘Exhibition of the City of Berlin,’“The Printed and the Built: Architecture, Print Culture, and Public Debate in the Nineteenth Century, Mari Hvattum and Anne Hultzsch eds. (London: Bloomsbury, 2017/8).

“An exhibition and its catalogue: Herbert Bayer’s “minor typographical masterpiece” for the Werkbund’s 1930 Section Allemande,” accepted for Architectural Histories, special issue on Word and Image (2016). Winner of outstanding Journal article award, SESAH, 2017.

 “Les Maquettes, l’architecture, et l’exposition de l’académie en Allemagne, 1786-1923,” in Cahiers du NMAM, Centre Pompidou, Paris (Fall 2014).

 “Exhibitions, Objects and the Emergence of Modernism in Germany,” in Exhibiting Architecture: A Paradox?, ed. Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen (New Haven: Yale School of Architecture, 2015).

“Was ist Architketur? Modelle in deutschen Akademie Ausstellungen bis 1923,” in Architektur Ausstellen. Zur mobilen Anordnung des Immobilien, Carsten Ruhl, Chris Dähne, eds. (Berlin: Jovis, 2015).

Monday, 16th April, 2018

Alice Otazzi will speak on:

«Les derniers venus sont aujourd’hui les premiers».

English prints collections in 18th-century Paris.

This paper aims to investigate the (re)discovery of English art in 18th-century Paris.  The English artistic tradition was not greatly admired in the previous centuries and it was just around the middle of the 18th century that an interest  developed towards this art. In a comparative approach that will involve both literature and philosophy, the principal promoters of Anglomania will be discussed, highlighting the interaction between general culture and artistic outcomes. The examination of Parisian sales catalogues and some French public archives will allow the identification of the presence of English works of art offering further reasons for reflecting the origin of a specific taste in connection to the concept of an English school, which will represent the discriminating factor in the analysis of the dynamics of the reception of the English school in 18th-century France.

Reconstructing a panorama which has been since underestimated, she will examine the presence of English works of art, predominantly prints, that dominated the Parisian scene during the 70’s and 80’s. Undertaking this investigation allows the outlining of English artists who were collected in France, bringing to light names nowadays almost unknown. Studying private (Marquis de Beringhen, Marquis de Paulmy, Duc de Richelieu, Princesse de Lamballe) and royal collections (Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette) it will be possible to understand the reasons behind this practice of collecting and its evolution during the 18th century. At the beginning of the century, English prints were collected because of their specific technique, mezzotint or, later, crayon manner, and in the second half of the 18th century for the name of the artist himself or the subject they represent. Finally, some post-mortem inventories hold information on the display of these prints, enabling to deepen and complete the analysis of the collection of English prints in Paris.

Alice Ottazzi is currently a Teaching Assistant in History of Art Criticism and Museum Studies, Università degli Studi di Torino, Department  of Humanities.   Her PhD is in progress, jointly supervised by Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.

She is also responsible for the section “Drawing” of the handbook Il Cricco Di Teodoro Itinerario nell’arte (Zanichelli Editore S.p.a., Bologna).   She was a contributor to the catalogue of the exhibition L’Europe et les mythes Grècs : Dessins du Musée du Louvre XVIème – XIXème siècles, exhibition curated by C. Loisel, Fondation Teloglion, Thessalonica, 2012 as well as Témoignages d’une condicio sine qua non. La réception des procédés de fixage des pastels dans la littérature artistique du XVIII siècle, in B. Jouves & A. Delaporte (Eds.), Réception critique de la restauration. XVIIIe-XXe siècles, Éditions du GRHAM, 2017.

The Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU