Public History at Hardwick

As regular readers of this blog will know, the Conversion Narratives team were delighted to welcome Hannah Hogan into our ranks during the spring term. Hannah has written a new blog post, reflecting on her experiences as an intern, working towards the ‘Virtue and Vice exhibition at Hardwick. You can read it over on the web pages for York’s Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past’.

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A book that converted…

Robert_Parsons_(1546-1610)

As part of the work of putting together the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition, I got to return to a question that has fascinated me for a long time: women’s reading in the early modern period. Though moralists fulminated against the perils of women’s reading, and warned that it was likely to lead to all sorts of venereal vices, there is good evidence to show that women read widely, and that they enjoyed devotional and religious literature alongside a wide range of fictions, poetry, and other writings. Continue reading

An inlaid table, as you’ve never heard it before…

On 13th April 2013, visitors to the High Great Chamber at Hardwick Hall were in for a surpise…

‘Les Canards Chantants’, a talented quartet currently based in York, delighted visitors by singing ‘live’ from the Eglantine table, which is delicately inlaid with wooden sheet music. Visitors were amazed to ‘hear’ the table – some demanded an encore, and others wanted to know if the Canards could get a regular gig!

For me, it was a revelatory experience. Continue reading

Happy Birthday to the Bard

It’s Shakespeare’s birthday. To celebrate as Shakespeare would have liked, make sure you contemplate your own inevitable decline by listening to Izzy Isgate reading Sonnet 73. Simply click on the link below to listen.

Empty boughs at Studley Royal, North Yorkshire. (c) NTPL.

Empty boughs at Studley Royal, North Yorkshire. (c) NTPL.

Izzy’s recording is included on our ‘Virtue and Vice’ mobile app as part of our thematic exploration of the dissolution of the monasteries. We invited Izzy, a postgraduate student at York, and a talented singer/songwriter, to do the reading in order to reflect the northern roots of our exhibition and its protagonists.

You can read a transcript of the sonnet, along with my explanation, after the jump. Continue reading

How do you solve a problem like Hardwick?

ImageIt’s been a privilege to work with National Trust staff and volunteers for the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition, and a real thrill to get the occasional peek into areas of the Hall that are usually closed to visitors – including the attics! But working in an Elizabethan house poses some unusual challenges, to put it mildly… Continue reading

What’s in a Name? Curating ‘Virtue and Vice’

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The first of the four rare painted hangings in the Hardwick Chapel which inspired our exhibition. ©NTPL/John Hammond.

On a visit to Hardwick in the summer of 2011, I encountered two striking textiles. One was a magnificent appliqué hanging depicting ‘Faith and his contrary, in the person of Mahomet’: something I had read about in the inventories Bess made of her three properties in 1601, but never seen. The other was a rare and important painted cloth which illustrates the conversion of St Paul: a theme beloved of artists across Europe during the Renaissance, but which I was surprised to find painted onto fabric in a household chapel. Between them, these two luxurious objects encapsulate many of the obsessions and events of the Elizabethan age. The connections and conversations they make possible inspired the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition. Continue reading