The project was enabled by the West Midlands Museum Development ‘Expert Eye’ programme and the Islamic Art and Culture Subject Specialist Network, both supported by Arts Council England. Fuchsia Hart, a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford (and former researcher for the V&A’s upcoming Iran exhibition) spent time looking at the Museum’s ceramic collections and rich factory archive. She translated inscriptions on items commissioned for Muslim rulers, ranging from an 1820 pink breakfast service plate created by Chamberlains for Azam Jah, Nawab of the Carnatic in India, to late 20th century, richly gilded dinner services for leaders of the Gulf states.
An exciting discovery was rare books in the Museum’s Design Library that show the factories were collecting early publications illustrating the art and design of Islam for European audiences – enabling factory artists to incorporate these influences into Worcester porcelain and appeal to the fashionable Victorian taste for the exotic. The project has enabled Museum staff and volunteers to gain a much better understanding of the political and social context in which these items were created, and to improve collections records – capturing this knowledge for the future.
“Seeing how objects traditionally thought of as ‘Islamic’ were interpreted, and reinterpreted, in Worcester, from the early 19th century to the 1980s, can help us to chart the relationship between this country and places further afield. Researchers in the field are frequently involved with large national museums but the collection and archive at the Museum of Royal Worcester demonstrates that there is much to be gained from research in regional collections which also tell a big story of global exchange.” Fuchsia Hart, Guest Curator.