The alternative history of a Victorian washstand set

KEYTE, Julia (2014). The alternative history of a Victorian washstand set. In: ICDHS 2014 : Tradition, Transition, Trajectories: Major or Minor Influences?, Aveiro, Portugal, 9-11 July 2014.

Full text not available from this repository.
Official URL:


My starting point for this paper is a Victorian jug, bowl and chamber-pot set, that I encountered displayed in the toilet of a small Yorkshire Museum. The story of this set is the framework for an exploration of literature on how we invest personal, domestic possessions with meaning.

Before starting its life in the museum, the jug, bowl and chamber pot set belonged to the secretary of the museum board. It was gifted to her by a friend 4 or 5 years ago, and she kept it in her bathroom, filled with potpourri, dried flowers and soaps. When she had her bathroom replaced, there was no longer enough surface space for displaying the set. She moved it into storage in the shed, where she still kept it on view to remind her that it needed a new home. Then she thought of putting it on display in the new museum toilet, on an old wooden cabinet she had in her conservatory. Her decision to move it out of her home and into the museum toilet was a creative and caring one, which triggered the washstand’s transformation from a personal possession, into a public historical artifact.

The Victorian washstand set has an interesting -and in many ways ordinary- ‘life’ story, punctuated by transitions in meaning, value and purpose. By writing this paper I will ‘visit’ the most significant transitions, and use my visits as the basis for considering literature that discusses peoples’ relationships to their domestic possessions, and practices of keeping them that influence transitions in meaning. In particular, I am seeking instances where the physical and material properties of an object are discussed in relation to meaning-making.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Depositing User: Julia Keyte
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2014 12:33
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2015 13:38

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics