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The University of Southampton

Going for a song? New research into the antiques business.

Published: 29 November 2013
Credit: Serge Melki, USA

Research by Dr Eleanor Quince and colleagues at the University of Leeds will explore the development of the antiques trade in Britain and Ireland over the last century.

The pioneering 30 month £236,000 project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will produce case studies of prominent dealerships around the country and track individual objects as they progressed from collector to collector. Researchers will also produce an interactive map of the business, decade by decade, on a public website, stage events at museums and build an oral history archive.

“The antiques trade received a boost after the contents of many historic houses were sold off in the late 19th century; many heirlooms flooded the markets,” explains Eleanor. “As the impact of dealers is largely unknown, we look forward to investigating their part in the trade in precious objects such as glassware, porcelain and furniture.”

The influential Antiques Trade Gazette is supporting the project and is appealing for contributions from its readers as the team is keen to speak to dealers who have stories or material to share. The project is led by Dr Mark Westgarth of Leeds who is a former dealer himself. Eleanor studied the history of fine and decorative art at Leeds before moving to Southampton; her PhD thesis considered the work of Gillows, a furniture-making company working in Lancaster and London during the 18th century.

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