A one-day conference at the Royal Society, London, 27 April 2018.
This event aims to explore the purpose, content, audiences and impact of Victorian and Edwardian soirées from 1837 to the British Empire Exhibition in 1924. We invite papers and posters exploring these cultures.
Soirées developed from eighteenth century salons and society ‘at homes’, and the term ‘soirée’ was increasingly used interchangeably with ‘conversazione’. By the mid-nineteenth century a typical social event included exhibitions at a learned society or civic building with associated talks or lectures.
The Royal Society’s scientific conversazioni at Burlington House were the equivalent of the Royal Academy’s displays of art. They were attended by ‘literary lions, artistic celebrities, famous lecturers upon science, distinguished inventors in mechanics, discoverers of planets’ and they foregrounded ‘the very pick of the best of the most recent inventions’ (The Standard, April 1871).
However, these were not purely scientific gatherings. At the Royal Society, for example, William Morris majolica tiles might be displayed alongside Australian meteorites. Celebrated artists including Gustav Doré and Lawrence Alma-Tadema showed their work. Around them, scientists, clergymen, artists and politicians networked in environments where new technologies – colour and motion photography, high-speed and novel printing techniques, film and television – held equal promise for science and the arts. Women too, were present, as exhibitors and audience.
Scholars have an increasingly good grasp of the public culture of science in this period. However, the ephemeral aspects of the social activities of learned and societies, field clubs and fledgling museums, and the extent to which their activities supported organisational goals, have not been systematically researched, nor has their complex ecology of regional and national material culture, with its potential for dynamic inter-personal and inter-institutional relationships.
Contributors might consider some of the following questions:
1. What were the ambitions behind the evolving design of period soirées at the Royal Society and at other organisations at home and abroad? Did such temporary displays leave a permanent legacy in museum culture?
2. How were the contents of such displays and demonstrations determined, and what was the profile and responses of stakeholders and audiences?
3. What can be learned about how visions of the future were mobilised and materialised in the ‘pre-disciplinary’ networked cultures of innovation in soirées? Did they contribute to the development of new technologies and new disciplinary specialisms?
4. Is the demise of the soirée associated with the decline of empire? Or is it in part related to the development of mass media and new communications media?
This conference is co-organised by Professor Sandra Kemp, V&A and Keith Moore, Royal Society. Enquiries should be addressed to email@example.com
* Papers - abstract: 300 words (30 minute papers)
* Poster presentations – abstract 300 words
Deadline for abstracts: 31 October 2017
Send abstracts to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Authors will be notified by 14 November 2017
It is intended that, with the Editor’s agreement, papers should be included in a special issue of Notes and Records of the Royal Society<http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/>.