Ford Maddox Brown, The Last of England (1852-55)
Ford Maddox Brown, The Last of England (1852-55), Birmingham Museums Trust 1891P24. Photograph by Birmingham Museums Trust, licensed under CC0.

The resource pack was launched at the Museums Association Annual Conference in November this year. It is intended as a starting point for museums and galleries seeking to foreground histories of racism and empire in collections of nineteenth-century art and design.

The pack is the outcome of a three-year research network ‘Race, Empire and the Pre-Raphaelites: Decolonising Victorian Art and Design’, funded by Tate, Paul Mellon Centre and Arts Council England as part of the British Art Network; it has also been supported by an IAA AHRC grant from the University of Birmingham.

The research network of over 90 people, based in Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania, brought together museums holding Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts collections with academics, activists, and artists to consider these objects’ global contexts in relation to Orientalism and Empire. By using Birmingham’s rich collections as a starting point, the network sought to facilitate wider conversations about how Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts material, and collections of Victorian art and design more generally, should be displayed and interpreted for 21st-century museum audiences.

The group’s activity will also inform the redisplay of these collections following the full reopening of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

Being involved in this project has been an incredible learning experience for me. It has been a real privilege to learn from, and share my expertise with, museum professionals, artists, activists, and academics who are all exploring – from different perspectives - how best to understand, challenge, and communicate to museum audiences the relationship between Victorian art and design, and histories of racism and empire. Addressing the ongoing impact of histories of racism and empire is a pressing concern for museums and art galleries. This Resource Pack is intended to offer museum professionals a wide range of practical examples and approaches to starting this process.

Dr Kate Nichols - Associate Professor in Art History at the University of Birmingham.

The members of the research group include Dr Kate Nichols, Associate Professor in Art History at the University of Birmingham, an art historian of Britain and the British Empire, focussing, particularly on the Victorian period; Victoria Osborne Curator of Fine Art and Curatorial Team Leader at Birmingham Museums Trust with curatorial responsibility for the city of Birmingham’s collections of paintings, sculpture and works on paper pre-1900, and is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham; Dr Sabrina Rahman an art and design historian whose research examines the design of everyday life in Britain, Central and Eastern Europe, and South Asia of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Sabrina is Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter.

The resource pack contains practical suggestions, examples, interviews and conversations authored by museum professionals, artists, activists, and academics.

A digital version resource pack is now available for museums and galleries to download here: Digital Museum Resource.

An accessible version for print or visually impaired people is available here: Digital accessible Museum resource.

Read more about the Research Group's activities.