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. 

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The Society for the History of Collecting has recently been formed to encourage communication among scholars in the field through its website https://societyhistorycollecting.wordpress.com 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  sochistcoll@gmail.com.

LONDON

2017

NEXT SEMINAR:  6 p.m. 

Monday, 20th November

 Professor William J. Diebold will speak to us on:

Displaying “German Greatness” in Nazi Germany: the Exhibition Deutsche Größe (1940-1942) and its Legacy

Although it is not well known to scholars, the cultural-historical exhibition Deutsche Größe (“German Greatness” or “Grandeur”)  was probably the most important museum display of the Nazi era.  The show’s subject was the history of Germany from the early Middle Ages until the assumption of power by Adolf Hitler.  Deutsche Größe was supported at the highest levels of the Nazi Party and its presentation of history was frankly ideological, but the show expressed that ideology through a series of ambitious and innovative display techniques.  One of these was the use of an elaborate interior architecture for each of the show's fifteen chronologically-arranged galleries, an architecture which was intended to give the feeling of the period on display in each gallery.  Even more remarkable from the museological perspective was the exhibition's exclusive use of facsimiles (most of them hand made) for the exhibition of its close to 2000 objects.  

This paper presents Deutsche Größe and describes how it came about and how it worked to shape an understanding of history that would serve Nazi goals.  Special attention is paid to Deutsche Größe as a piece of museology and to the display of the art and culture of the high Middle Ages, an area of history that was especially fraught and problematic for the National Socialists because it came from the "First" Reich that they saw revived in their "Third" Reich.  The paper ends with a consideration of the legacy of Deutsche Größe in two later exhibitions, one which took place in Cold War West Germany and the other in the German Federal Republic after unification.

William J. Diebold, Jane Neuberger Goodsell Professor of Art History and Humanities, Reed College, Portland, Oregon USA  wdiebold@reed.edu

Professor Diebold was awarded his PhD in 1989, at Johns Hopkins University.  Thesis (with honors): “The Artistic Patronage of Charles the Bald.”   Since September, 1987, he has been a member of the Art History and Humanities Faculty at Reed College, Portland, Oregon.   He has been a member of the Editorial Board of Studies in Iconography since 2015.   Following the award of a grant, in Spring 2018, he will be a member of the School of Historical Studies, at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.  His many publications include: 

“’Brother, What do you think of this idol?’  Early Medieval Travelers Encounter ‘Idols.’”  Ready for submission

“’Not pictures but writing was sent for the understanding of our faith:’ Word and Image in the Soissons Gospels.”   Ready for submission

"Baby or Bathwater?  Josef Strzygowski’s 'Ruins of Tombs of the Latin Kings on the Haram in Jerusalem' (1936) and its Reception."  Orient oder Rom? Prehistory, history and reception of a historiographical myth (1880–1930), eds. I. Foletti and F. Lovino.  Under review.

"The Magdeburg Rider on Display in Modern Germany."  The Long Lives of Medieval Art and Architecture, eds. J. Feltman and S. Thompson.  (London:  Routledge; forthcoming)

“‘A living source of our civilization’. The Exhibition Deutsche Groesse/Grandeur de l’Allemagne/Duitsche Grootheid in Brussels, 1942.” Arts of Display/Het vertoon van de kunst, eds. H. Perry Chapman et al. (Leiden:  Brill, 2015) ( = Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art/Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 65 [2015]), 292-319.

TUESDAY, 12th December [PLEASE NOTE DAY]

 Isobel MacDonald will speak to us on:

 From Townhouse to Castle: Sir William Burrell’s (1858-1961) collection at home

In 1944 Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) bequeathed his entire collection to the city of Glasgow. With his gift came strict stipulations, one of which stated that his collection was to he housed in a stand-alone building. True to these conditions, today the Burrell Collection is exhibited in a purpose-built pavilion (1978-83) set within the grounds of Pollok Country Park, roughly four miles from Glasgow’s city centre. However, during the collector’s lifetime the collection was situated in an entirely different setting, or perhaps more accurately: settings. Indeed, at the time of the gift objects owned by Burrell could be found in thirty-three separate locations, including: art galleries, national museums, libraries and cathedrals. This paper concentrates on two related settings: 8 Great Western Terrace, Glasgow, and Hutton Castle, Berwick-upon-Tweed. These two locations were the Burrell family’s homes, the former bought by Burrell in 1901 and the latter in 1916 but inhabited from 1927. 

This paper assesses the significance of the domestic setting for Sir William’s collection. Not only does it analyse how Burrell displayed objects, but also his choice of objects for these private spaces. The paper also takes into close consideration the building styles; Great Western Terrace being a Glaswegian townhouse built by Alexander Greek Thomson in 1869 and Hutton Castle a late-medieval tower with sixteenth century additions. Using surviving images from Great Western Terrace and Hutton Castle, written sources from visitors to both of the homes and correspondence surrounding their renovation, this paper will consider the home as a space of display. 

Using discussions of collections and interiors by authors such as Susan M. Pearce and Diana Fuss, this paper analyses the significance of the objects that Sir William chose to live amongst, ultimately questioning what an assessment of the Burrell Collection “at home” tells us about its collector. 

Isobel Completed her MA at the University of Glasgow in 2014  and is currently engaged in research for:

AHRC PhD Studentship (University of Glasgow & The Burrell Collection, Glasgow): ‘Sir William Burrell (1861-1958): the man and the collector’ (January 2016-December 2018)

This is a collaborative project with Glasgow University and the Burrell Collection, which reassesses the collecting practice of Sir William Burrell (1861-1958). By taking a thematic approach to the Glaswegian mercantile collector, her thesis encompasses such questions as what affected Burrell’s interests in collecting, his motivations for collecting, the relationship between his business practice and his collecting practice, the significance of his collection within a late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century context, his relationship with artists and dealers, his relationship with his contemporary collectors both locally and internationally, and his involvement in the British art scene at the time.







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