Of Victorian Interest

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Conference: CRASSH. “Exhibiting Belief: Materiality and Religious Display in the Nineteenth Century” (5/7/2015)

Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
University of Cambridge
May 7, 2015

“Exhibiting Belief: Materiality and Religious Display in the Nineteenth Century”


  • Colleen McDannell (Utah)
  • Alison Knight (Cambridge)
  • Kathrin Pieren (Southampton)
  • Chris Wingfield (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge)


  • David Maxwell (Cambridge)
  • David McKitterick (Cambridge)
  • David Feldman (Birkbeck)
  • Sarah Longair (British Museum)

From official imperial and colonial displays and monumental exhibitions of sculpture, to exhibits of needlework, coal and mechanical ants, the nineteenth century was an era of unprecedented exhibition of material objects. New museums were founded; old museums rebuilt; and large scale temporary exhibits, inaugurated by the Great Exhibition of 1851, attracted visitors in their millions. Where did the material culture of religion figure amongst these exhibits? This one-day seminar explores the display of religious material culture in Britain and the US during the long nineteenth century. It looks beyond the better-known exhibitionary spaces of Victorian Britain, to consider the Caxton Exhibition (1877), the Anglo-Jewish exhibition of (1887), the Exhibition of Jewish Art and Antiquities (1906), the London Missionary Society Museum (1814-1910). What happens to sacred objects when displayed to the public? Is the museum necessarily a secular space?

The day is organised around the visit of CRASSH Bible and Antiquity visiting fellow, Professor Colleen McDannell (University of Utah), whose groundbreaking research on material religion brought new attention to the 'stuff' of religion. Professor McDannell brings a transatlantic perspective to bear on the exhibition of belief, and will be theorising 'Heritage Religion' in relation to Mormon reconstructions of sacred monuments.

Free to attend, but registration is essential - for more information and to book:http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/26159

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