Osterley Park recently hosted an oral history event for local Hounslow residents. There are significant Sikh and Tamil communities living near Osterley, and the event sought to explore the connections between their heritage and the collection at Osterley, which is rich in Asian objects.
Participants learned about the Child family of Osterley, who were deeply involved in the trade between Britain and Asian in the 17th and 18th century. In addition people were encouraged to bring in objects that had a personal or cultural significance, and to share their thoughts and feelings about them.
Objects can appear strange and exotic, of course, and the lure of the unknown seems to have been one of the reasons behind the popularity of Asian goods in 18th-century Britain.
Equally, the collection at Osterley demonstrates how people try to ‘own’ the unknown, both literally by collecting exotic objects, and symbolically by having their coats of arms put on them and by fitting them into familiar decorative schemes.
Oral history events such as this one are part of the Global Stories in Domestic Spaces project, sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and masterminded by the East India Company at Home research team.
This event will also feed into the exhibition Trappings of Trade: A Domestic Story of the East India Company which will be on view at Osterley between July and November this year.