Making and Mobilising Objects: People, Process and Place
Conference Report
Natalie Cox and Serena Dyer
When “Making and Mobilising Objects” was first conceived for the HRC’s Doctoral Fellowship Award,
our vision was a conference to showcase and celebrate the dynamic approaches being taken by the
active and vibrant community of emerging scholars engaging with material culture. The conference
not only achieved this, but also made apparent the web of connections amongst speakers and
delegates, who were drawn from a range of disciplines and institutions from across the United
Kingdom.
Making and Mobilising Objects took place on 21st February 2015, and the day began with an insightful
and adroit keynote from Professor Evelyn Welch (Kings College London). Welch introduced us to the
importance of labour, knowledge, and skill in how we understand objects; these key ideas spoke
directly to the themes that ran through the rest of the day. Two parallel sessions followed, which
explored the array of interdisciplinary approaches being taken to the processes of making and
mobilising objects: from how, where, and what things were made from, to use, misuse, and the
purgatory of non-use. The objects considered were equally diverse, including an Anglo-Saxon brooch,
the SS Great Britain, maps, and doublets.
Our second perceptive keynote was delivered by Amy Miller (Curator Emeritus of Decorative Arts and
Material Culture). Miller gave a compelling and engaging paper on the life and afterlife of the coat
worn by Horatio Nelson when he was mortally wounded. This provided an excellent precursor to our
‘Engaging Objects’ session, which was formed of a series of short, object-focused papers, exploring
the importance of specific objects in the speakers’ work. This interactive workshop, led by Miller,
encouraged very fruitful discussions, with delegates sharing their methodologies and experiences.
The event was a fantastic success, and we look forward to taking the project further.
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Making and Mobilising Objects: People, Process and Place Conference Report