Historical Fragments: Making, Breaking and Remaking (in person attendance)

  • 09:00 - 17:00 BST

  • Evolution House, The University of Edinburgh
    78 West Port
    EH1 2LE

Taking ‘fragmentation’ as the conceptual starting point for the day, The Material and Visual Culture in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries Research Cluster will host a one-day hybrid conference that considers the materiality and shifting conditions of global objects and collections (focusing on the time period 1500-1800) as they are broken, fragmented, remade, or assembled. Seeking to investigate the ‘brokenness’ of such material culture objects and collections, the conference will de-centre conservation and restoration which often dominate discourse on the subject. The Research Cluster aims to provide a space to foster interdisciplinary discussion on the material approaches to fragmented objects through material culture.

*N.B.- Please note this is the registration for *IN-PERSON* attendance. If you wish to attend online, please register here.

Historical Fragments Conference Schedule

Room 5.21

Evolution House

78 West Port

Edinburgh, EH1 2LE

9:00 - Arrival

9:15 - Welcome

9:30 - Keynote (hybrid)

Chair: Professor Carol Richardson (University of Edinburgh)

Dr Catriona Murray (University of Edinburgh): Smashing Statues: Breaking and Remaking the Monumental Bodies of King Charles I

10:30 - Refreshments

10:45 – Morning Session: Early Career Researcher and PhD Papers (hybrid)

Chair: Dr Seren Nolan (University of Edinburgh)

  • Dr Simon Spier (Victoria & Albert Museum): Tinker, burner, riveter, turner: The ‘china mender’ in 18th century Britain
  • Agata Piotrowska (University of St Andrews): Assembled, catalogued, displayed in their brokenness: Shakespeare’s chair, stones from the tomb of Romeo and Juliet, and other objects telling the story of Duchess Izabela Czartoryska’s collection
  • Hanne Schonkeren (Vrije Universiteit Brussel/ Research Foundation of Flanders): Sustained splendor: (Re)assembling early modern luxury objects
  • Esther Rollinson (University of Manchester): ‘Trim’d with gold but very old’: Exploring the importance of preservation and remaking for the English Catholic community, c. 1660-1800
  • Dr Yi Shan (University of Texas, Austin): Meaningful Losses: Exploring the Knowable Past by Collecting Premodern China

12:15 – 1:00 - Lunch

1:00 – Afternoon Session: Historical Fragments Roundtable (hybrid)

Chair: Dr Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth (University of Edinburgh)

  • Alejandro Nodarse (Harvard University): Goya’s Remedy (‘Remidio’): On print as fragment
  • Dr Serena Dyer (De Montfort University): A Fashionable 1760s Gown
  • Dr Lauren Working (University of York): Sea Change: Regenerative Shipwrecks
  • Dr Sarah Laurenson (National Museums Scotland): Fractured mountains: quartz crystals and the Cairngorms

2:30 - Refreshment Break

3 – 3:30 - Walk to St Cecilia’s Hall

* The walk to St. Cecilia’s is 15-20 minutes. Please email materialcultureresearcheca@ed.ac.uk if you require transport. *

3:30 – 5:00: St Cecilia’s Hall (in-person attendees only)

  • Presentation by Dr Jenny Nex (Musical Instruments Collections Curator, St Cecilia's Hall): The fragmentation, remaking and consumption of musical instruments, as seen through examples in the Musical Instrument Collection at the University of Edinburgh
  • Tour of collections and object handling session

5:00 – Close


Abstracts and Bios

Keynote: Dr Catriona Murray (University of Edinburgh)

Paper Title: Smashing Statues: Breaking and Remaking the Monumental Bodies of King Charles I

Biography: Dr Catriona Murray is Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. She is a specialist in the art, objects and performances of the Tudor and Stuart courts. Her first book, 'Imaging Stuart Family Politics: Dynastic Crisis and Continuity', explored the strategic promotion of royal familial imagery as a compelling, but ultimately precarious, art of political communication. It was awarded the 2017 Royal Studies Journal Book Prize. She is currently working on her second monograph project, which analyses the origins and development of public sculpture as a political agent in early modern Britain.


Dr Simon Spier (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Paper Title: Tinker, burner, rivetter, turner: The ‘china mender’ in 18th century Britain

Abstract: This paper explores the social position of broken porcelain or earthenware objects in the 18th century in Britain, and the anxieties around getting them fixed. Scholars such as Sara Pennell, Angelika Kuettner, John Harris and Tomoko Suda have discussed the various technological and cultural developments of mending ‘china’ during this period, relating them to the luxury status of Chinese and English porcelain and its imitations, mostly from the perspectives of its consumers. Pennell in particular, has mined newspapers, inventories and used objects as primary sources in order to reveal the complex relationship that broken ceramics had with such consumers and how a growing consciousness of their fragility and the reality of living with such objects, was countered by the developing trade in repairing. This paper proposes to build on these accounts, offering further insights into, firstly, how broken ceramics were used and valued, discernible through 18th century depictions of porcelain as well as surviving pieces. Secondly, the paper will assess accounts of the authenticity and trustworthiness of the china mender and the relationship this curious trade had to the middling and elite consumer of expensive but useful ceramics. Historic sources provide many instances of the tensions between itinerant tradespeople and the consumption of luxury porcelain, such as the anxieties around theft of broken china by irreputable menders, and from these we can build up a clearer picture of the cultural place and the many actors surrounding broken and reassembled ceramic objects.

Biography: Dr Simon Spier is currently Curator, Ceramics and Glass 1600-1800 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, where he has been part of the Decorative Art and Sculpture Department since September 2021. Prior to this he completed an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the University of Leeds and The Bowes Museum, researching the founding collection of the museum.


Agata Piotrowska (University of St Andrews)

Paper Title: Assembled, catalogued, displayed in their brokenness: Shakespeare’s chair, stones from the tomb of Romeo and Juliet, and other objects telling the story of Duchess Izabela Czartoryska’s collection

Abstract: “Brick from the room where Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Thorn”, “Stones brought from Kremenets Castle”, “Fragments of the tomb of Romeo and Juliet”, “Dagger believed to have been used during the Crusades”, “Glass remains of the lamp of Charlemagne from Aixla-Chapelle”: these are just some of the entries from handwritten private museum catalogue, Catalogue Historique et Detaillé des Objects Reunis à la Maison Gothique à Puławy from 1809 (Czartoryska, 1809). Its author, Izabela Czartoryska, Duchess from the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, travelled Europe on multiple occasions, despite wars happening then across the continent. On all these occasions she accumulated artefacts, often broken and fragmented objects, remains of the past testifying to certain historical events and individuals, which she then located within two edifices: Gothic House and Temple of the Sybil built on the grounds of her estate of Puławy. These, open to the public on various occasions from early on in their existence, became later first publicly open Polish museums and are now part of a prominent collection on display in Cracow, Poland. Czartoryska’s life is just one example of many female lives overlooked by the Western scholarship, which through expressing bold agency played a crucial role in the shaping of broader European culture, creating networks and promoting an exchange of ideas on a transnational level. The Duchess’ deep appreciation of brokenness of the material testimonies to ages past, her passion for assembling them, personally describing, and cataloguing, and sharing with others, demonstrate an apparent and fascinating link between conservation and acceptance of fragmentation. The objects she collected, all of them of a transnational character, formed a harmonious yet imperfect collection of artefacts speaking through their brokenness and valuable for it. The collection itself, influenced and moved around by the ongoing wars, has undergone changes and challenges throughout the ages. This contribution will explore Izabela Czartoryska’s approach to art collecting, cataloguing and displaying, with a particular focus upon her acceptance of and interest in the fragmentation of material culture, its ability to tell stories, and its relationship with the problem of conservation.

Biography: Agata Piotrowska is a third year PhD student at the University of St Andrews’ School of History. Her research focuses on female travel writings from Central-Eastern Europe, particularly on women’s involvement into the organisation of the journeys, family relationships, art collecting, and their relationship with publishing.


Hanne Schonkeren (Vrije Universiteit Brussel/ Research Foundation of Flanders)

Paper Title: Sustained splendor: (Re)assembling early modern luxury objects

Abstract: In the sixteenth century, the city of Antwerp reached a commercial and artistic peak. Antwerp became Europe’s epicenter of goldsmithing, thanks to the direct supply of raw materials through its harbor and the presence of wealthy merchants and skilled craftsmen. Although the Golden Age of Antwerp is wellstudied, little research has been done on the art of goldsmithing, the making processes of these luxury objects, their makers, and the networks in which they circulated. This paper focuses on the assemblage methods of sixteenth-century Antwerp ornamental cups. The great intrinsic value of these objects is evidenced by their continuing use decades after their creation, rather than being melted down and reused for their material value. However, sometimes the function and owner(s) of the ornamental cup change over time, and methods were sought to slightly alter the cup to persist as a meaningful object. Typical for the Antwerp ornamental cups are the small figures, cast in precious metal, crowning the luxurious objects. Hands-on research demonstrated that these elements were assembled by means of screws, allowing the objects to be easily disassembled. As a result, the crowning figures on the silverware could be replaced to fit their new function. This enabled groups and individuals to take ownership of these ornamental cups and claim them as if they were made for themselves. This paper will explore the assemblage methods of Antwerp-made cups and trace how they moved and were modified to accommodate their social networks.

Biography: Hanne Schonkeren received a bachelor's degree in jewellery design and goldsmithing from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Antwerp). She later obtained her master's degree at the Free University of Brussels in art studies and archaeology, combining goldsmithing and archaeology by remaking a medieval fibula. This thesis was awarded the Beherman Prize (2022). She is currently working for the Research Foundation of Flanders (FWO) on a doctoral project investigating sixteenth-century Antwerp gold and silversmithing through the innovative method of Reconstruction, Replication, and Reenactment, under the supervision of prof. Pieter Martens (VUB), prof. Tine Meganck (VUB) and prof. Sven Dupré (UU).


Esther Rollinson (University of Manchester)

Paper Title: 'Trim'd with gold but very old': Exploring the importance of preservation and remaking for the English Catholic community, c. 1660 - 1800

Abstract: In studies of English Catholicism, the importance attached by recusants to preserving the material record of the pre-Reformation is increasingly well acknowledged. Alexandra Walsham has, for example, written of efforts to preserve the landscape of English Catholicism, as well as the importance of its fragments to the Catholic community. In light of this, this paper seeks to explore the significant role of recusant women in the processes of recycling and refashioning which were at the heart of the community's desire to preserve a record of the long history of Catholicism in Britain. This paper foregrounds those objects which evidence the significant efforts of lay women to preserve a history of their faith through things and explores the emotional attachment of women to the often damaged and fragile objects of the Catholic past. Whilst this paper will refer to the preservation of medieval textiles and church plate, it will focus also on the efforts of Catholic women to refashion and preserve the texts of their faith. Examining books as haptic material objects, this paper explores the efforts of women in the long eighteenth century to ensure the survival of devotional texts as well as what their desire for preservation reveals about devotional exercises and religious identities. Presenting some of the early findings of a project run within the Museum and Historic Libraries of Stonyhurst College, this paper illustrates the significant role of women in both engaging with and contributing to religious practices which in part relied on fragmentary survivals.

Biography: Esther Rollinson is a second-year PhD student at the University of Manchester. Funded by their School of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, her thesis explores the role of the Catholic household as a site for the cultivation and expression of Catholic devotional cultures in early modern England. She is particularly interested in the emotional attachment of Catholic women to material objects and their use of material culture to cultivate distinctly affective environments. Before studying at Manchester, she completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford (2015-2018) and a master's in Early Modern History at the University of St. Andrews (2019-2020).


Dr Yi Shan (University of Texas, Austin)

Paper Title: Meaningful Losses: Exploring the Knowable Past by Collecting in Premodern China

Abstract: This paper investigates how premodern Chinese collectors and scholars made sense of the lost, incomplete, and damaged collections of books and stele rubbings. Wars, human mistakes and negligence, and natural forces constantly destroyed and damaged collections in both private and institutional care. The abundant tales of the losses of collections served not only as warnings for collectors but also as history lessons that shaped the collective understanding of the past among Chinese intellectuals. Compiling catalogues, making copies, and writing colophons were common measures that premodern Chinese collectors used to redress the loss in the past and prevent those they foresee in the future. In this paper, I argue that losses and the efforts to prevent and reverse them shaped the historical consciousness among premodern Chinese cultural and intellectual elites. In particular, they saw loss and damage as an inevitable part of our human experience, and their collecting practices helped them to understand that there was always a shifting boundary between the knowable and unknowable of the past. Hence the loss and incompleteness carried significant spiritual and intellectual weight in the Chinese collectors’ self-understanding in terms of their relationship with the past. Specifically, the paper looks at three case studies of Hu Yinglin 胡應麟 (1551–1602), Huang Pilie 黃丕烈 (1763–1825), and Ye Changchi 葉昌熾 (1849–1917) who all were avid collectors and whose extensive writings on collecting gave us

Biography: Dr Yi Shan is the East Asian Studies Librarian at the University of Texas at Austin. He received my PhD in East Asian History from The Ohio State University in 2021. His dissertation explores the emergence of a generation of collector-historians and how their collecting practices shaped the historiography and historical consciousness in eighteenth-century China.


Alejandro Nodarse (Harvard University)

Object Title: Goya’s Remedy (‘Remidio’): On print as fragment

Biography: Alejandro Octavio Nodarse is a Ph.D. candidate in History of Art & Architecture at Harvard University. He received his B.A. and M.A. in the History of Art from Yale University in 2019. His research spans the early-modern period, with a focus on seventeenth-century painting and printmaking in Italy and Spain and an interest in art theory and aesthetics, more broadly. His dissertation, “Operations of the Image: Painting, Medicine, and the Origins of Aesthetics,” explores the convergence of painterly and surgical practices in Baroque Rome and Naples.

In addition to his work as an art historian, Alejandro is a translator and practicing sculptor. He lives in Rome. See www.alenodarse.com for additional information and CV. For his translation, see www.themarinoproject.com.


Dr Serena Dyer (De Montfort University)

Object titleA Fashionable 1760s Gown

Biography: Dr Serena Dyer FRHistS AFHEA is a historian of dress, consumption, and material culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. To Serena, objects resonate with human stories which are told in stitches and brushstrokes. Her prize-winning first book, Material Lives: Women Makers and Consumer Culture in the 18th Century, was published by Bloomsbury in 2021. Her current research projects include work on the performance of British patriotism through dress, the history of buying British, historicism and sartorial temporality, and recreation and remaking dress as a historical methodology.​

Serena completed her PhD at the University of Warwick in 2016. She is now Lecturer in History of Design and Material Culture at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. She has previously taught at the University of Hertfordshire and the University of York. Before returning to academia, Serena was Curator of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture and Assistant Curator at the National Portrait Gallery. She is the presenter of English Heritage/Immediate Media's Fashion Through History, and she regularly appears on BBC radio. She currently leads the AHRC-funded Making Historical Dress: Hands, Bodies and Methods Network (Co-I, Dr Sarah Bendall ACU).


Dr Lauren Working (University of York)

Object title: Sea Change: Regenerative Shipwrecks

Biography: Lauren Working is a Lecturer in Early Modern Literature and a member of the interdisciplinary Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at York. Her research focuses on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literary sociability, material culture, and empire. Her book, The Making of an Imperial Polity: Civility and America in the Jacobean Metropolis (Cambridge University Press, 2020), explores how colonial projects and the circulation of plantation goods transformed ideas of civil refinement in Jacobean London. She has published articles on topics including intoxicants, wit poetry, female agents, and Jamestown archaeology in The Historical Journal, Anthropology Today, and The Sixteenth-Century Journal, among others. 

Lauren has worked with several museums and archaeological sites to develop ways of using artefacts to reinterpret Anglo-Indigenous relations and early modern colonial histories. She is a freelancer for the National Portrait Gallery and a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker. 


Dr Sarah Laurenson (National Museums Scotland)

Object TitleQuartz Crystals and the Cairngorms, 1750-1820

Biography: Dr Sarah Laurenson is Principal Curator of Modern and Contemporary History and Head of the Modern and Contemporary History Section. She is responsible for the Scottish collections representing cultural, social, political, military and domestic history from c.1750 to the present.

Sarah's broad research interests span the period of Scottish history from 1750 to the present day with an emphasis on Scottish cultures and identities, and on the ways in which shifting engagement with the physical landscape and natural environment has shaped – and continues to shape – the material world. Sarah’s doctoral thesis from the University of Edinburgh, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, examined Scotland’s jewellery craft from 1780 to 1914. Her forthcoming book expands on this research with a particular focus on how the use of jewellery materials extracted from Scotland’s natural landscapes – namely precious metals, agates and crystals, and freshwater pearls – throw light on the complex and shifting relationships between people and the natural world since the mid-eighteenth century. Other research interests include: the relationship between people, objects and environments in the Highlands and Islands, and the material culture and contemporary legacies of Scotland's colonial histories. In 2018-19 Sarah was co-Investigator on the project, The Matter of Slavery in Scotland, funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Sarah joined National Museums Scotland in 2017 when she was appointed as Curator of Modern and Contemporary History, and was made Senior Curator in 2020. During this time Sarah had specific responsibilities for developing the Scottish History & Archaeology Department’s innovative contemporary collecting programme, which documents the impact of social, cultural, political and environmental change in twenty-first century Scotland. Sarah is Chair of the National Museums Scotland Contemporary Collecting Working Group, a Trustee of the Scottish Goldsmiths Trust, and a member of the Advisory Board for the George Bain Collection at Groam House Museum.


Dr Jenny Nex (St Cecilia's Hall)

Paper Title: The fragmentation, remaking and consumption of musical instruments, as seen through examples in the Musical Instrument Collection at the University of Edinburgh

Abstract: Musical instruments from the past are often rediscovered in fragmented states. Instinctively, the first reaction is often to restore an instruments so that it can again be sounded and ‘brought to life’. When this has been done in earlier times, instruments can show how they have been updated to suit changes in musical taste. But if an instrument is left unrestored, it can reveal other facets that sit behind or beyond its musical purposes. This can include making visible the construction process and internal structures that are hidden in an intact instrument. Furthermore, the restoration process can change an object so that it is no longer properly representative of its type. Broken parts or fragments of instruments have been acquired by repairers and used to replace missing parts on other instruments. Collections of these as yet unused parts can help us understand the processes and working practices of instrument repairers and dealers. Instruments have also been deliberately fragmented and reworked to concoct forgeries and fakes, showing us something of the market forces that drive dealers to find new ways of generating income. We can also see how inventors of ‘new’ instruments are in fact often creating ‘mashups’ that bring together elements from a number of existing instruments to create a novel item that can be promoted and sold. This paper draws on examples from the Musical Instrument Collection at the University of Edinburgh to explore how instruments, as material objects, can be understood in terms of fragmentation, remaking and consumption.

Biography: Dr Jenny Nex is Curator of the Musical Instrument Collection and Lecturer in Musical Instruments at the University of Edinburgh. Building on her PhD relating to the business of instrument making in London between 1760 and 1820, her research interests focus on musical instruments and their social and cultural contexts, notably exploring the financial and business operations of makers through archival sources. Publications include work relating to London-based firms, notably Longman & Broderip, and to specific types of manufacture including the gut string trade, as well as highlighting the roles of women in instrument businesses in the 18th and 19th centuries.