Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior, 1500-1700: the case of decorative textiles

Catherine Richardson from the Canterbury Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies has secured funding from the AHRC for a research network that will investigate peoples’ experience of household life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – the time in which Shakespeare was writing – and consider how we might use this information to enhance our experience of visiting historic properties in the twenty-first century. The ACRG are one of the partners on the project and hosted the first workshop.

The network is using the latest developments in computer science and cognitive science in order to understand how the domestic interior was experienced in early modern England. Dr Richardson and her co-investigator Dr Tara Hamling from the University of Birmingham have brought together researchers in the humanities and sciences, conservators, museums curators and heritage professionals, including individuals from English Heritage, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Historic Royal Palaces and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. They are experimenting with, for instance, virtual reality environments that recreate historic atmospheric effects and eye tracking equipment that measures where and for how long we look at our surroundings, and see how this technology might be used to reconstruct historical perception. In order to make the task more manageable, we are going to focus on a specific case study – ‘how did early modern men and women respond to decorative textiles in their houses?’

The ACRG has an interest in various aspects of this, including the capture and manipulation of digital models of textiles, the physically accurate simulations of them in context and the possibilities of formal analyses for considering their perception. The project has strong links with Catriona Cooper’s Lived Experience thesis.