On 6 April and 9 April, the EICAH and National Trust teams welcomed volunteers and community representatives to take part in an oral history initiative aimed at drawing connections between the Osterley House’s early history as an East India Company home and life in contemporary Hounslow. The two days saw participants from the Sikh community affiliated with the Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Hounslow, and the Tamil Community Centre, Hounslow, in addition to local residents attend a three-hour workshop at Osterley House. The session kicked off with a guided tour of Osterley House by House and Collections Manager Claire Reed and the UCL team, where participants were given an overview of the collections of export art from India and China. The object histories presented to the participants highlighted the processes of the global flow of commodities through shipping and trade in the eighteenth century, and the patronage of the Child family, whose three generations served on the board of the EIC. Some important highlights constituted a large folding lacquer screen with the crest of the Child Family acquired in Canton in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, an early eighteenth century intricately embroidered bed valance from Gujarat, near Surat, a selection of porcelain objects such as parade jars and armorial ware, as well as two intricately models of Chinese junks carved in ivory and a mother of pearl pagoda. As a complement to these eighteenth century objects, participants were invited to bring in objects from their own homes, which had a personal or cultural significance for them. The second half of the day was devoted to personal interviews with individuals and group participants focusing on object driven oral histories where participants were encouraged to share their thoughts about how these objects had shaped their contemporary lives in Britain. The oral histories are part of the AHRC cultural engagement project Global Stories in Domestic Spaces, which will be featured as part of the exhibition and public display, ‘Trappings of Trade: A Domestic Story of the East India Company’, at Osterley House between July and November this year. As part of an effort to raise funds for conservation of the lacquer folding screen, the National Trust has organized a raffle the results for which will be announced during the annual Summer fair at Osterley this July.
‘Trappings of Trade: A Domestic Story of the East India Company’, will be on display at Osterley Park and House from 27 July to 3 November 2013.