Tickets available – The Public Country House: ‘Treasure of Quiet Beauty’ or a Site for Public Histories?

April 26, 2024

On 16 and 17 May the V&A will host a two-day conference in partnership with the National Trust, bringing together experts to explore and debate the role of the historic country house in the twenty-first century. Hosted at the V&A, 50 years on from the 1974 Destruction of the Country House exhibition, this conference marks another important moment for our collective understanding of the country house.

A large group of people outside a country house sitting around tables under a huge tree
An Entertainment in the grounds of Ham House, watercolour by Thomas Rowlandson, late 18th-century. Museum no. P.21-1958.

The V&A and the National Trust have a long history of collaboration. The contents of Ham House, whose ownership was transferred to the National Trust in 1948, were purchased for the nation and allocated to the V&A. The V&A managed Ham House until 1990, and transferred ownership of the collections to the National Trust in 2002

Research into country houses has expanded over the past half-century to encompass a broader understanding of their histories. Bringing together heritage professionals and academics, this conference will feature contributions from those working at the cutting-edge of country house interpretation and research. By focusing specifically on the role of country houses owned by charities with an obligation to provide public benefit, the event will tease out questions that have been at the core of their preservation for almost a century.

Across the two days, a variety of core themes will be explored, including:

  • How the transformation of the country house into sites of public heritage was first conceptualised.
  • The transformation of country houses to better serve their public purpose and improve their accessibility.
  • How might marginalised histories be adequately addressed through country house interpretation?
  • What new research opportunities do country houses offer?
  • What new forms of interpretation are emerging in country houses now?
  • What will the country house’s role be in the future?

Tickets for the in-person conference are already sold out, but the livestream will be free and you can book here. You can also download a programme.

This conference is the concluding event of Private’ spaces for public benefit? Historic houses as sites for research and knowledge exchange innovation, a collaborative project led by Dr Oliver Cox (Head of Academic Partnerships, V&A) and Dr Tarnya Cooper (Curatorial and Conservation Director, National Trust). The project is generously supported by a British Academy Innovation Fellowship Award.

1 comment so far, view or add yours


Is there any chance of attending in person? I will be in London!

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