BARS Digital Events: Romanticism and the Museum

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Join us on Zoom on Thursday 4th March 2021 at 5pm GMT. Tickets here.

This event proposes to discuss the challenges facing museums and heritage institutions and organisations in 2021. We specifically want to explore the role of museums based in the UK that are dedicated to celebrating the works and lives of figures from the Romantic period. These sites are far more than single buildings – they provide a dedicated space for conversation and inspiration. Literary house museums lead the way in championing the importance of preserving the legacy of literary icons, both in their work with collections, but also in their work with the communities that they serve. The event will also seek to ask who such museums are for, and how they can engage new groups beyond their core following.

This roundtable will crucially include a range of speakers: curators, academics, and early career scholars who work with and study literary house museums. 

Some of the issues we will be exploring include: 

  • Diversifying audiences 
  • Digital exhibitions and communications (especially in light of the global pandemic)
  • Funding, including the question of balancing sustainable income as well as providing targeted activities for specific groups
  • Collections: care and promotion 
  • Engaging both local and international audiences
  • The relationship between academia and museums


Jeff Cowton is Curator & Head of Learning at Wordsworth Grasmere. Jeff has worked in the Museums world for 39 years, having begun his career as a volunteer with the Wordsworth Trust in 1981 before becoming Curator in 1994. In 2010, Jeff was awarded an MBE in recognition of services to museums. He is currently leading on the reinterpretation of the site and Museum for the HLF-funded project Reimagining Wordsworth.

Charlotte May (University of Nottingham) is a Trustee of Keswick Museum and has recently finished a post-doctoral project on ‘Robert Southey’s Keswick’, creating educational resources for the public and schools about Robert Southey and his life and times in the North-Eastern Lake District town of Keswick. She is currently working on the letters of the banker-poet Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), a contemporary of Robert Southey.

Rob Shakespeare is Principal Curator at Keats House Museum, Hampstead, and has led the Keats200 project marking the bicentenary of John Keats’s time at the House with a series of exhibitions, events and digital initiatives. Previously Rob worked as a history teacher before moving into the museum sector as an Education Officer in Enfield and then as Education Manager followed by Museum & Archives Manager at the Museum of Croydon.

Nicola Watson holds a chair in English Literature at The Open University. She is a specialist in the cultural history of Romanticism with interests in travel-writing and literary tourism, the writer’s house museum, and more generally in the material culture of European Romanticism. Her publications include The Author’s Effects: On the Writers House Museum. She is the Association Co-ordinator for ERA (European Romanticisms in Association) and is the PI of Dreaming Romantic Europe (DREAM). 

Amy Wilcockson is a PhD researcher at the University of Nottingham, editing the letters of the Scottish Romantic poet, Thomas Campbell. Amy spends a lot of her time lurking in archives, and has completed placements and volunteered at the Boots Archives and Records Centre, Chatsworth House, Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, and the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum. She is also an avid Byron fan and begins a research placement at Newstead Abbey in February 2021. 

Anna Mercer (Cardiff University)

Speakers will give their response to the question: ‘why do literary house museums matter in 2021?’. There will then be time for a Q&A with the audience.