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22 Jun 2022

Beyond Beckford: reviewing and re-interpreting the Beckford Collection

Written by Sarah Beattie, Regional Curator, Ayrshire & Arran and Dumfries & Galloway
PhD candidate Thalia Ostendorf installing items for the Beyond Beckford exhibition
As part of a Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) funded internship Beyond Beckford, Wu Yunong, a PhD student from the University of Glasgow and Thalia Ostendorf, a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews, are carrying out research at Brodick Castle.

The aim of their project is to improve our understanding of the Beckford collection at Brodick Castle and explore how we interpret it for visitors. We wanted to move away from the focus being placed on the collector in the position of privilege (most often white, male and wealthy) and instead look more broadly at the collection and what it can tell us: about the artistic styles and cultures of the objects, collecting tastes and habits in Britain and Europe, and the impact of the transatlantic slave economy and colonial trade from the late 16th century into the early 19th century.

Learn more: William Beckford (1760–1844), part one

The National Trust for Scotland was recently gifted a collection of research material from one of the leading Beckford scholars and this archive was key to the work Thalia and Yunong have been undertaking during their internship. Working closely with me (the regional curator) and the Education Officer and Collections team at Brodick, Thalia and Yunong have been improving our records on individual objects and looking more broadly at William Beckford and the entire collection. They’ve been helping to expand our research, by looking beyond individual collectors and examining the items within their broader historical, artistic and cultural significance.

You will be able to learn more about Thalia and Yunong’s research over the coming weeks in a series of blog posts examining four fascinating items from the collection, and in the exhibition at Brodick Castle which they co-curated, due to open later this month (June 2022).

As well as all the wonderful research Yunong and Thalia have completed, their enthusiasm, knowledge and inquisitiveness throughout the project have made curating the display an enjoyable and informative experience for me too! It’s been great working with them and invaluable to have their fresh perspectives – both their academic insights and their personal input.

“I hope this is the sort of collaborative work we can continue across our properties and collections in future.”
Sarah Beattie
Regional Curator

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