George Scharf and the emergence of the museum professional in nineteenth-century Britain

Call for participation in a workshop concerning the emergence of the museum professional in the nineteenth-century, Tuesday 21 April 2015, National Portrait Gallery, London:

Current research concerning the career of Sir George Scharf, the Gallery’s first Secretary and Director (1857-95), aims to establish his approach to museum practice, the nature of his professional networks and the extent to which he collaborated with figures in the museum and wider art world.  This workshop is designed to evaluate Scharf’s practice in comparison with the work of his contemporaries.  Whilst the careers of figures including Sir Henry Cole, Sir Charles Eastlake and Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, have been examined in relation to wider institutional histories and studies of the public art museum in the Victorian era, little scholarly attention has been directed towards the identity of such individuals as a discrete group of professionals or the manner in which they interacted.  Papers will focus upon nineteenth-century practitioners centrally engaged in research, conservation, management or curatorship, within national or regional public galleries and museums.  Speakers will consider either the development of professional standards within individual careers or evidence of a collective contribution to the professionalization of museum practice, during a period which saw the emergence of a range of clearly defined professions.

Short formal papers will be followed by round-table discussion with reference to both the potential for collaboration between employees of different institutions, and the consolidation of museum roles throughout the 1800s.  An additional theme for consideration will be the degree to which professional networks extended beyond national boundaries to include contemporaries working in European museums and galleries.  What influence did this bring to bear upon British museum practice and vice versa?  Other key questions will comprise the following:  What were the differing needs of individuals working in various arts institutions, and how were these met within a circle of professional contacts?; how did the role of the curator develop in the nineteenth-century and how did this job specification vary between institutions?; considering the backgrounds, or ‘skill-sets’ of these individuals, can we pinpoint a shift from connoisseurship towards an emergent curatorship? 

Panel 1:

Elizabeth Heath, CDA Candidate, National Portrait Gallery / University of Sussex:

A man of ‘unflagging zeal and industry’: Sir George Scharf as emerging professional within the nineteenth-century museum world

Jacob Simon, Research Fellow and former Chief Curator, National Portrait Gallery:

George Scharf and developing practice in picture restoration in museums.

Elena Greer, CDA Candidate, The National Gallery / University of Nottingham:

Sir Frederic Burton and his circle: the controversy of art-historical expertise at the National Gallery, London in the late nineteenth century

Jessica Feather, PhD Candidate, University of Reading:

Sidney Colvin: a pioneer curator at the British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings

Panel 2:

Charlotte Drew, PhD Candidate, University of York:

The Colourful Career of John Charles Robinson: collecting and curating at the Early South Kensington Museum

Professor Lucy Hartley, Department of English Language & Literature, University of Michigan:

How to Observe: Charles Eastlake and a new professionalism for the arts

Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, Senior Research Curator (History of Collecting), The National Gallery & Dr Corina Meyer, Lecturer, Institute for Art History of the Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main

Bringing expertise and professionalization to the museum world in 19th-century Britain: Sir Charles Eastlake at the National Gallery and his networks within British and Continental museums, with particular reference to his correspondence with J.D. Passavant

Panel 3:

Giles Waterfield, Independent Curator and Writer:

Emerging from the Chrysalis: curating the regional gallery in Victorian Britain

Dr Kate Hill, Principal Lecturer, University of Lincoln:

Women as Museum Professionals, c.1870-1914

Dr Anne Galastro, Visiting Lecturer, University of Edinburgh:

‘The arduous duty of arranging, classifying and hanging’: W.B. Johnstone and the nascent National Gallery of Scotland.

Lucilla Burn, Acting Assistant Director (Collections) and Keeper of Antiquities, Fitzwilliam Museum:

‘I don’t candidly think there is enough work at the Fitzwilliam for two’: early management practice at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Chairs: Dr Meaghan Clarke, University of Sussex; Dr Dora Thornton, The British Museum.

There will also be an opportunity to view material from the Scharf Archive, in the Heinz Archive & Library at the National Portrait Gallery. 

This event is free to attend although, because space is limited, those interested in participating are invited submit a short biography (approx. 100 words) and a brief statement (approx. 250 words) detailing how your research interests intersect with the focus of the workshop.  Please direct applications to Elizabeth Heath at Research@npg.org.uk, no later than Tuesday the 17th March 2015.