Details of upcoming events will be published here. We welcome members’ suggestions for future events and activities.

We are following the recommendations for Conference and Seminar organisers set out in the Royal Historical Society’s 2018 Report on Race, Ethnicity and Equality in UK History, and welcome feedback and comment on the inclusivity of our events.

Precariously employed and free-lance speakers will be paid for their contributions.

Workshop: Empire and the Everyday Object

Thursday 12 May 2022, 2-4pm BST, online via zoom

What stories about empire do everyday objects tell? How can everyday objects today be placed into dialogue with 19th-century collections?

This event is free to attend, but registration is essential. You can register here

About this event

Over the past 25 years, historians have explored the various ways in which imperialism permeated life in Britain. This session focuses specifically on the connections between objects in daily use, empire, and migration. It explores how our everyday objects today can be placed into dialogue with nineteenth-century collections. It asks how museums might work with community collections in recasting histories of art, design and empire.

The session will begin with a plenary talk by artist-documenter and storyteller Alison Solomon. Alison has just embarked upon an AIM and National Lottery Heritage funded project with the Royal Crown Derby Museum, which seeks to explore who collects Royal Crown Derby porcelain, and what the connection is between such collections and our sense of home. The project’s initial focus will be on collecting and documenting stories from British Caribbean collectors of Royal Crown Derby; Alison notes that

“Many of the African-Caribbean people that emigrated to the UK and settled in Derby, collect Royal Crown Derby. The enjoyment of these high craftsmanship products signified a joining of old and new: the beauty and remembrance of the Caribbean (the home they left behind), and the appreciation of collecting, owning, displaying, and enjoying luxury items of historical and local significance that represents their home now.”

Alison will provide an overview of the project in a talk entitled “Home Is Where The Art Is: ‘Collecting Home,’ a story of co-production.”

The remainder of the session will be based around breakout room discussion. Each participant will be asked to bring along an object from their home from any time period which connects to stories of empire and migration. This might be, for example, a tea cup (connected to the global tea trade); a mobile phone (the rare earth metals as an example of extraction of resources during colonialism and in today’s unequal postcolonial relationships); a bar of chocolate; something made of cotton; a print or photograph. There are lots of possibilities.

We will be exploring the following questions in relation to these objects:

1) What stories about empire might your everyday objects tell?

2) How can nineteenth-century museum collections be placed into meaningful dialogue with community collections of everyday objects with similar stories to tell?


2:00-2:10 Welcome and outline of session

2:10-2:30 Alison Solomon: ‘Home Is Where The Art Is: ‘Collecting Home,’ a story of co-production’. 

2:30-2:50 Breakout rooms 1. Key question: What stories about empire might your everyday objects tell? 

3:00-3:10 Group discussion on question 1

3:10-3:30 Breakout rooms 2. Key question: How can nineteenth-century museum collections be placed into meaningful dialogue with community collections of everyday objects with similar stories to tell?

3.30-3.50 Group discussion

Previous Events

Event 3: In conversation 

Hew Locke and Matt Smith: Commemorating and Contesting Empire with Victorian Ceramics

Chaired by Dr Sadiah Qureshi

Friday 25 June, 2021 11 am – 12 noon BST

During the second half of the nineteenth century, middle-class mantelpieces throughout Britain and the British Empire were adorned with miniature sculptures made from Parian Ware, a new, industrially produced ceramic material invented in the 1840s. A large number of these statuettes commemorated imperial ‘heroes’ and contentious political figures. How are contemporary artists engaging with these peculiarly Victorian art works? How should museums today display celebratory images of people involved in colonial violence?  

This event brings together two leading contemporary artists whose work has engaged with Victorian Parian Ware ceramics to challenge ideas of reputation, mythmaking, nationhood and empire.

Hew Locke is a Guyanese-British sculptor, whose work across a range of media often explores colonial histories and legacies. His Souvenir series of sculptural pieces takes original 19th-century Parian Ware  busts of British royalty and dresses them in elaborate regalia, its imagery expressive of military power and imperial conquest. Artist Matt Smith’s exhibition Flux: Parian Unpacked at the Fitzwilliam Museum in 2018 explored themes of mass production, celebrity, colonialism and notions of history.  

The conversation is chaired by Dr Sadiah Qureshi, Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Birmingham, who is a cultural and social historian of race, science and empire in the modern world.

This is a free, public event, open to all.

Workshop 2: Thursday 27 May, 10.30-13.00 BST, via Zoom

Artists in Dialogue: Contemporary responses to nineteenth-century art, design and Empire 

How are contemporary artists of colour engaging with nineteenth-century art, design and empire in their practice?  What are the challenges, limits and potential of displaying contemporary artists’ work to challenge racism and colonial violence in historic collections?

This online event will feature presentations by artists Sunil Gupta, Belinda Kazeem-Kaminski, Farwa Moledina and Bharti Parmar, with discussion chaired by Dr Anna Arabindan-Kesson. It will be followed by structured discussion in breakout rooms; participants will be invited to discuss experiences of relevant artistic projects you have worked on, exhibitions you have visited, or projects you would like to explore in the future.

This event is free to attend


10.30-12.00: Artist Talks and Roundtable, Chaired by Dr Anna Arabindan-Kesson

12-12.10: Comfort Break

12.10-12.40: Discussion in breakout rooms

12.40-close: Group discussion


Bharti Parmar – “A Grammar of Sentiment

Bharti Parmar trained in printmaking at the Royal College of Art and has a PhD in fine art (University of Wolverhampton).  She is co-editor of the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of World Textiles (Vol 4, COLOUR), a 10 volume 2 year project.

She will be reflecting on her doctoral research using Owen Jones’ seminal design manual of 1856, A Grammar of Ornament as a springboard to explore the themes of taxonomy and materiality in her work.

Sunil Gupta – “Queer Migrations: A Practice

Sunil Gupta is a Canadian citizen, (b. New Delhi 1953) MA (Royal College of Art) PhD (University of Westminster) who has been involved with independent photography as a critical practice for many years focusing on race, migration and queer issues.

Belinda Kazeem-Kaminski – “H(a)unting”

Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński is a writer and artist living in Vienna, Austria. Rooted in Black feminist theory, she has developed a research-based and process-oriented investigative practice that often deals with archives, specifically with their gaps and blanks. Interlacing the documentary with the fictional, her works manifest themselves through a variety of media and dissect the present of an everlasting colonial past. She is currently a guest professor at the Academy for Media Arts Cologne.

Farwa Moledina – “Not Your Fantasy

Farwa Moledina is a Muslim artist. Through the use of pattern and textile, her work addresses Muslim women and faith.

Chair: Anna Arabindan-Kesson is an Assistant Professor of Black Diaspora Art, with a going appointment in African American Studies and Art and Archaeology at Princeton University.  Her first book Black Bodies, White Gold: Art, Cotton and Commerce in the Atlantic World is published by Duke University Press, and she is the director of Art Hx, a digital humanities project examining the intersection of art, colonial medicine and race. Her website is

Workshop 1: Thursday 28 January 2021, 12.00-14.00 GMT, via Zoom

Objects in Focus: Decolonising Victorian Art and Design?

By using Birmingham’s rich collections as a starting point, we aim to facilitate wider conversations about how Pre-Raphaelite and Arts & Crafts material might be displayed and interpreted for the 21st-century museum and its diverse audiences.

Introduction – Sara Wajid and Zak Mensah (CEOs, Birmingham Museums Trust)

Objects in Focus: 3 pairs of speakers offer 5-minute responses to 3 objects from Birmingham’s nineteenth-century collections, reframing them in terms of race and empire


Fariha Shaikh (Lecturer in Victorian Literature, University of Birmingham)

Sally-Anne Huxtable (Head Curator, National Trust)

Wayne Modest (Head of the Research Center for Material Culture, Leiden)

Gursimran Oberoi (PhD Candidate, University of Surrey/Watts Gallery)

Caitlin Beach (Assistant Professor of Art History, Fordham University)

Nicola Thomas (Professor of Historical and Cultural Geography, University of Exeter)

Workshop: Working in small groups in breakout rooms, participants consider a range of objects from Birmingham’s nineteenth-century collections and discuss how they might be reinterpreted. Images of these objects can be found here.

This event is free to attend.