A major research project aims to investigate the history, evolving nature and importance of the British antiques trade in the 20th century.
The recently launched project,
conducted by an academic team led by Dr Mark Westgarth of Leeds
University, is keen for contributions from existing members of the
trade as well as anyone who has memories, documents or images that
could shed light on individual dealers, companies or other relevant
activity for the period.
One of the objectives is to highlight
the impact of the trade on Britain's economy.
The project, which is the first of its
kind, will take place over 30 months and is funded by the Arts and
Humanities Research Council. It already has the support of leading
figures in the trade, such as Martin Levy of Blairman & Sons
and Georgina Gough of the family firm of Ronald A Lee Fine Arts,
who is also Clerk to the Company of Arts Scholars.
"We envisage the project to be the
start of a new research area into the history of the antique trade
more generally," said Dr Westgarth who, a former dealer himself,
has already produced a number of books on the history of the
antique and curiosity trade in the 19th century.
The project team also includes Dr
Eleanor Quince of Southampton University and Elizabeth Jamieson, a
Research Fellow at Leeds University.
"It is hoped that by directing
attention to the often displaced and marginalised history of the
commercial trade in antiques, the project will radically reposition
the significance of the trade in the history of collecting, further
highlighting the relationships between the history of the
commercial antiques trade and the development of decorative art
history and public museum collections."
The project team plan to carry out
detailed case studies of prominent dealerships operating at the top
of the trade as well as mapping the development of the trade more
generally - with mass data collection of the names/trading dates
and the changing locations of dealers in Britain. This will result
in a large database of dealers, with mini biographies, which will
be publicly accessible via an interactive project
The team will also map the
trajectories of the objects that passed through the hands of major
dealers, tracking their relationships to significant collectors and
One of the most ambitious aims is to
assemble an oral history archive (to be lodged at the Brotherton
Library at the University of Leeds) of interviews with existing,
retired and semi-retired prominent members of the British
Towards the end of the project the
team will host an academic conference on the subject of the 20th
century antique trade at Temple Newsam House, Leeds, while a series
of public workshops and talks at museum venues will highlight the
history of museum objects and their relationships to the antiques
ATG have already offered
support to the project and will bring readers updates as it
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