About the research project
At Powis Castle in Wales, the NT is custodian of one of Europe’s largest and most important collections of objects from South Asia. The collection is the result of the activities of Robert Clive, his son Edward Clive, and his daughter-in-law Henrietta Clive from 1755 to 1805. The Clives were at the very centre of the East India Company’s expansion in India and were personally responsible for, and benefited from, major acts of looting and violence. Yet the current display and interpretation of the Clive Collection, created in 1987, does nothing to address this difficult history, leaving many visitors with serious questions and concerns.
The relationship between colonialism and public museum collections of extra-European artefacts has recently attracted much interest and criticism. In public and academic discourse there is a lively ongoing debate around issues of display, decolonisation, and repatriation. In turn, this debate has turned to the position of the National Trust (NT), and to British country houses as sites of public encounters with the questions and artefacts of imperialism. The NT is committed to grappling with this problem as part of its ‘Everyone Welcome’ programme. They want to reconfigure the South Asian Collections as a portal to conversations with its source communities. To this end, they have commissioned a PhD studentship with the Oxford-Open-Cambridge DTP, and a 3-month post-doctoral research project, both researching the collection. This KE Fellowship builds on the research findings of this project, to meet the NT’s urgent need for further interpretation and guidance. A project to deliver new insights into the collection to address its origins, history, and significance to Britain and South Asia, is particularly timely. The project will support the NT to reinterpret the collection to engage with its colonial origins, drawing specifically on the project teams’ expertise in global history and museology, as well as the histories of colonialism, gender, Anglo-Indian diplomacy, and looting.
Image of the South Asian Collection at the Clive Museum, Powis Castle and Gardens © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.
Tipu Sultans' State Tent at Powis Castle, Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Dr Liz Green, Lead Curator Wales, National Trust
Develop new display material on the global history of the Powis collection, the Clives, colonialism and display to be installed in the newly created ‘interpretation space’ in Powis.
Create training and interpretative materials for volunteers and staff to present their respective South Asian collections to the public.
Lecture(s) and object workshop(s) for public, volunteers and staff.
Publication in the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies on the Clives, their collection, and the history of Anglo-Indian diplomacy and gift giving.
Establish Oxford student micro-internships to engage in Powis object provenance research.