• 5 March 2015
  • 9:00 – 5:00 pm
  • Sainsbury Theatre, National Gallery, London

This one-day scholarly conference encourages fresh thinking about 18th-century country houses as environments that were always evolving, animated by interactions between objects and people.

The conference will look at the ways in which objects, when placed on display within a particular space, entered into different kinds of dialogue with the contents, decoration and associations of that space. It will also explore the ways in which the evolving environment of the country house, and the forms of display found within it, were experienced; by those who lived in the house, by those who visited as tourists or invited guests, and by those who engaged vicariously through the process of 'armchair travel'.

Organised by the National Gallery, Birkbeck (University of London), and the Paul Mellon Centre, the conference is designed for art historians and scholars of 18th-century fine and decorative arts, architecture and garden history - whether based in museums, collections or universities; curators and custodians of historic houses; and the general public interested in historic houses of the period.

  • Buying, collecting and display: the purchase, commissioning, inheritance, gifting of works of art, furniture, books and other materials; picture hangs; room arrangements.
  • The country house as a complete environment: the total effect of the 18th-century country house, and the ways in which its various elements - works of art, furniture, decorative schemes - worked together to create a complete experience.
  • The country house and visitor experience: country house tourism; visitor experience of houses and gardens; the multifarious literature related to country houses, including guidebooks, regional guidebooks, and periodical articles.