This on-line display was curated by Emily Keppel, a Cultural Materials Conservation Masters student at the University of Melbourne, Australia, who received the U21 Student Museums & Collections Award for 2014, and to whom we are most grateful. In a partnership between the Universities of Birmingham and Melbourne, she worked on a range of collection management projects during her month’s residency in Birmingham (February 2014), developing new and existing skills in research, exhibition, cataloguing and preventive conservation. This display is drawn from the rich archives of the Barber Institute, with most of the exhibits once part of Lady Barber’s personal collection, and rarely, if ever, previously displayed in public.
Sir Henry and Lady Barber were tenants at Culham Court, near Henley-on-Thames, for 40 years. At this grand country estate Lady Barber pursued many of her interests, gardening chiefly amongst them. The large and lavish gardens at Culham Court were a physical manifestation of the Barbers’ status and wealth, but also offered a private retreat and a place to socialise. For Lady Barber, who was closely involved in the garden’s design and formation, gardening was an outlet for creativity and a reflection of her own identity.