SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

A Gentle Pursuit: The Role of Women Collectors in Colonial India in Bringing the Himalayas to the National Museums Scotland.

Inbal Livne (Stirling University)

Date: 22 February 2012Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 22 February 2012Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B111

Type of Event: Seminar

In this paper I will examine the roles of two women, who were responsible for bringing two of the most significant groups of Himalayan material to the collections of the National Museums Scotland. Lilian Le Mesurier was the wife of a Political Officer, based in Ladakh, a remote and unforgiving part of British India. She travelled with her husband, using her position to enable the collection of over one hundred objects from some of the most important monasteries in the region, which were then published as part of a well-read travelogue of the day. Only a few years later, Florence Bailey, in her upper-middle class Edinburgh home, started to receive packages of objects from her son, who had taken part in the military expedition to Tibet in 1904, and then stayed on as a Trade Agent in the region. Florence Bailey displayed these objects around her home, created slide shows of the photographs her son sent her, and invited many of Edinburgh’s great and good to view the collection, creating an informal ‘salon’ of sorts in her home. In quite different ways, both women used collections as social tools, proving that the domestic sphere, whether in Edinburgh or the Empire, was a dynamic social, political and academic space where women played as active a role in forming representations of the world as did their husbands and sons.

Organiser: Crispin Branfoot

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