Professor Catherine Richardson gave the Michael Nightingale Memorial Lecture on 28th September. A recording of the lecture can be watched here. Trustee Sheila Sweetinburgh wrote about the talk on her blog

"I was especially interested to hear what she had to say because I used to live not far from the Weald and Downland Museum, and it remains one of my favourite places. As she said, she has employed the idea of ‘practice research’ since her time as a doctoral student, and over the last two decades she has developed these ideas far more and in collaborative ways both with academics and museum curators. Even though this has not been exclusively in the southeast of England, involving among other organisations the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Weald and Downland Museum has perhaps offered the greatest opportunities because of its ethos of setting its buildings in a relatively tight time period. Thus, unlike some other national organisations, you don’t move from a Tudor parlour to a Stuart gallery to a Victorian kitchen, but rather stay in what might be called a Tudor setting. Furthermore, the houses and other buildings at the Museum would have been instantly recognisable to the yeoman farmers and their urban counterparts as the type of dwelling and workspaces they would have inhabited alongside their neighbours.

Again, perhaps not surprisingly, Catherine’s various research projects on the material culture of the ‘middling sort’ has centred on textiles, and the topic that she concentrated on last night was painted clothes. As she said, they often crop up in Kent 16th-century inventories but seldom are valued as worth much by appraisers. Rather, they are often said to be worn but nevertheless their widespread use suggests that they were a significant item within the lived experience of the household. Consequently, Catherine and her colleagues used the opportunity presented by the Museum wanting a new painted cloth for the high end of the hall at Bayleaf Farmstead to undertake some practical research for both the production and reception of such an item. Watching how the cloth was produced – the choice of design based on contemporary wall paintings, the make-up of the paints, the execution of the different brush strokes was also fascinating, but equally how the team reacted once it was in place. Thus, for example, the effect of seeing it by candlelight, the working out of the optimal distance from it to view it, the impact of seeing it from outside through the unglazed windows – all, while never totally able to recreate what Tudor people would have ‘seen’, still enabled Catherine to gain a much greater appreciation of the lived experience."

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