Forum: Objects of Contention, Spoils from the Yuanmingyuan in British Museums, 15 August and 25 September 2017

In the autumn of 1860 British and French troops looted the Yuanmingyuan, the lavish garden estate of the Qing emperors. Campaign members then returned to Europe rich with spoils. Imperial Chinese objects from the estate, many created by imperial command, have since taken unexpected trajectories in private collections and public museums.

Objects of Contention was inspired by one special object within this history: a fragment of a Qing imperial revolving vase, once housed in the Surrey Infantry Museum, Clandon Park. In the spring of 2015, fire ravaged Clandon Park and destroyed the regimental museum. Sherds of the vase have since been recovered.

The panels will take a new look at the spoliation and the military collections formed in its aftermath, the evolving position of Yuanmingyuan artefacts in UK collections, and institutional strategies for handling this material today. On September 25th

Panel One: Looting the Yuanmingyuan, Plunder and Prize
August 15, 2017
5:30 – 8:30pm
The Institute of Historical Research, Wolfson Room I
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

John Roote: The Logistics of Loot. Who were the looters of the Summer Palace? What did they take and why? How did they transport their spoils to Europe and beyond? The quantity, and to some extent the make-up, of Summer Palace loot has long been controversial – how much treasure was really taken and where is it today?

Kate Hill: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Yuanmingyuan, Or: How the Allied Armies Had a Lost Weekend in China, Struck Gold & Won the Second Opium War. A new look at the looting of the Yuanmingyuan, how it happened and why.

Steve Johnson: The Surrey Regiments in China. The curator of the Surrey Infantry Museum will discuss the involvement of The Queen’s Royal Regiment and The East Surrey Regiment in the China campaigns of 1860–63, and introduce artefacts from China in the museum collection, including the revolving vase. Sherds of the vase may be available for inspection. TO BE CONFIRMED.

Amy Miller: Globetrotters Collecting the East: trope, treasure & personal appropriation, 1870-1900. In the late 19th century, China was an essential stop on the ‘Around the World Tour’, for Western travellers, who brought home emblems of the ‘East’, such as pieces looted from Yuanmingyuan in 1860 and appropriated from the site later as ‘souvenirs’. These material tropes reflected a vision of the ‘Orient’ created at the interstices of culture, politics, trade and travel, filtered through the personal experiences of globetrotting.

RVSP appreciated but not required: k.hill.2@research.gla.ac.uk.

Panel Two: Yuanmingyuan Artefacts in UK museums
September 25, 2017
1:30 – 5:00pm
The Institute of Historical Research, Wolfson Room I
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Kate Hill: A Porcelain Puzzle A curious vase and its history.

Rose Kerr & Colin Sheaf: 18th century imperial porcelain and its impact in the 19th – 21st centuries

Open floor discussion of the vase

Liu Yang: British and French Museum Collections of Yuanmingyuan cultural relics

Louis Tythacott: The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France: Collecting and Displaying Objects from the ‘Summer Palace’ in the West This talk will examine the succession of Western meanings and values attributed to objects from China’s Yuanmingyuan, or ‘Summer Palace’, over the past 150 years – their existence as commodities in auction houses from the 1860s; their displays in international exhibitions and public museums in Britain and France; and their status as ‘trophies of war’ in military museums in the UK.

Dialogue on museums, heritage & restitution
RVSP appreciated but not required: k.hill.2@research.gla.ac.uk.

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One Response to Forum: Objects of Contention, Spoils from the Yuanmingyuan in British Museums, 15 August and 25 September 2017

  1. Pingback: Forum: Objects of Contention, Spoils from the Yuanmingyuan – The International Art Market Studies Association

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