CFP: English Literary Heritage Conference

18-19 September 2015 (Institute of English Studies, London)

Keynote speaker: ‘Beyond Words’, Jeff Cowton (The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere)




This interdisciplinary conference aims to consider the interpretation of literary heritage objects in archives, museums and literary houses. It aims to stimulate an inclusive discussion about new and innovative ways to preserve and exhibit literary manuscripts and objects, drawing on the expertise of academics, curators and archivists. The conference is part of a project on “English Literary Heritage: Curation, Innovation and Outreach” project at the Institute of English Studies.

Literary Heritage may traditionally speak of the preservation of authors’ manuscripts, belongings and houses, but it also must include interpretation, understanding and the relationship of the artefacts to the individual, the community and the culture as a whole. Inspiring this public engagement with literary objects, whether manuscripts, correspondence, authors’ libraries, clothing, furniture or other artefacts, is not necessarily an easy task. With the continued development of a vast range of techniques and technologies, there are now more options than ever to link literary heritage objects with both researchers and the public.

Digitisation is already common practice, with applications such as the British Library’s ‘Turning the Pages’ bringing new ways for individuals to ‘access’ rare and unique documents. This evolution is also sparking new needs and challenges in terms of interpreting and understanding these documents. Making digital copies available to readers or archive visitors is one thing; helping untrained readers or viewers to understand these documents is another.

Manuscripts and correspondence usually contain the seeds of interpretation, but inspiring an engagement with other literary objects can be even more of a challenge: what can we make of Wordsworth’s ice-skates? How can we interpret Anthony Burgess’s matchbook collection? What is the relevance of Jane Austen’s jewellery?

This conference considers new theoretical, conceptual and methodological approaches regarding the interpretation and use of literary manuscripts and other heritage objects, with a particular focus on public engagement. This conference also aims to stimulate conversation and debate between academics, archivists and curators on the role of literary archives, literary houses and exhibitions.

Proposals are invited from academics, curators, archivists or other professionals working with literary manuscripts and objects. Subjects that we are seeking to explore might include:

• The changing role of literary houses, museums and foundations
• Digital curation in museums and archives
• English literary heritage as a form of literary scholarship
• Research and public engagement
• Open Access in the digital archive
• Crowdsourcing in literary museums and archives
• Literary apps and other digital resources
• ‘Gamification’ as a tool for learning
• Digital Humanities in the archive
• Exhibiting literary objects
• Digital palaeography
• Collaboration between institutions and across disciplines

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words with a short biographical note to by 28 FEBRUARY 2015.

For more information about the English Literary Heritage Project, visit the project blog  or follow on Twitter @EngLitHer.