Whose Heritage? Rethinking the West Dean Collection: An update
Students at West Dean College have had the opportunity to work with the Collections Team on the Whose Heritage? project over the past year. Although limited by the Covid-19 lockdowns, the project has continued, with taught sessions delivered to students from across the School of Arts and School of Conservation. Preventative conservation work on related archival material has been undertaken by MA Conservation Studies students specialising in Books and Library Materials, and a current student studying on the MA Collections Care and Conservation Management programme has been working to support the take-down, research, and documentation of two problematic displays in the College’s Oak Hall that contained a number of historical inaccuracies.
In addition, the project is supporting Warwick University PhD student, Fleur Martin, whose research focusses on collections resulting from expeditions into East Africa by Europeans and Americans between 1860 and 1914. The central case studies are the James Collection at West Dean College, the Teleki collection in Budapest and Vienna, and the Bottego collection in Parma.
We also continue to work with professional artists through the residency programme. This includes Claire Ratinon and Sam Ayre’s Gardens Residency looking at the crossovers between contested collections and horticultural space, which subsequently led to the 2021 publication of Horticultural Appropriation: Why Horticulture Needs Decolonizing, published by Routh Trade Books in partnership with the Garden Museum. West Dean College also recently announced a commission in partnership with the Wellcome Collection and De La Warr Pavilion that invites the RESOLVE Collective to create new work focussing on access and representation. Additionally, we are working with Sherie Sitauze and Sonia E Barrett on an Outside In residency partnership that has invited the two artists to respond to the African Collection. You can read about Sherie’s plans for her residency in a recent interview here.