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Dr Helen Clifford

Museum Consultant for the project "Europe's Asian Centuries"
Phone: 01748 884118

Working with the Europe's Asian Centuries project

As Museum Consultant to the project my task is to create links between the worlds of archive and object based sources. In the first year I helped plan, co-ordinate and deliver a major workshop at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to which we invited a wide range of specialists in East India Company traded goods from museums, galleries and auction houses across Europe and Asia. Since then I have been developing a network of advisors who can guide the project team to collections which match their areas of study. I am currently attempting to develop a database of textile samples that correlate with Dutch and English East India Company orders. This will enhance our understanding of qualitative shifts in demand across place and time. I am also involved in sourcing images of objects to enrich research and presentation of the project.

Research Interests

Helen specialises in the material culture and manufacture of the late 17th and 18th centuries, drawing together curatorial expertise with social and economic history approaches. She runs her own Museum in North Yorkshire which concentrates on the local lead mining industry, which also fosters several study groups looking at vernacular building, poor law, oral history and archaeology. She works freelance as an exhibition curator, and is dedicated to promoting the appreciation and understanding of both historic and contemporary silverware. She is a freeman of the Goldsmiths' Company.

  • Curator of the Swaledale Museum, Reeth in North Yorkshire (, from 2004
  • Museum Consultant, Europe's Asian Centuries, University of Warwick, 2011-14
  • Senior Research F ellow, East India Company at Home 1757-1857, University College London 2011-2014
  • Curator, GOLDWORK, The Story of Britain and Gold, Gold, Power and Allure, Goldsmiths' Company, London, 2009-2012
  • Researching and writing the history of the silver and glass collection at the Worshipful Company of Grocers’, London 2013-14
Previous Employment
  • Senior Research Fellow, Department of History, University of Warwick, 2004-2009
  • Tutor Victoria and Albert Museum/Royal College of Art, Research Department MA in the History of Design, V&A 1999- 2004
  • Leverhulme Research Fellow Ashmolean Museum Oxford, and Fellow of Balliol College Oxford, 1994-1998
  • Lecturer, Department of Art History & Theory, University of Essex, 1989-1993
  • Research Fellow University of Bristol, 1989

Major Exhibitions

  • * Curator, GOLDWORK: The Story of Britain and Gold, Goldsmiths' Company, London 2012
  • * Curator, A Treasured Inheritence: Six Hundred Years of Oxford College Silver, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 2004
  • * Curatorial Advisor, Metalmorphosis, Tradition and Innovation in British Silver and Metalwork 1880-1998, Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague 1998
  • * Curator, Twentieth Century Silver, Crafts Council, London 1993
  • * Curator, Sporting Glory 400 Years of Sporting Trophies, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1992
Research Projects

Helen has had a long term association with Warwick University via the following projects:

* As Senior Research Fellow on the 'Global Arts: East Meets West: Creativity and Cultural Interchange in the Early Modern World' project (2007-2009). My job was to organise regular seminars bringing together academics from the Warwick Eighteenth Century History Centre with curators from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, as part of the AHRC Research Networks and Workshops (Creativity) Scheme. This project which ran from January 2007 to December 2009 explored the impact of east-west cultural interchange on creativity and innovation between the 15th and 19th centuries.

* As Research Fellow on the Leverhulme funded 'Selling Consumption in the Eighteenth Century: Advertising and the Trade Card' (2004-2007). This project focussed on the unique collection of continental trade cards at Waddesdon Manor, via the creation of an online catalogue. My job was to instigate and co-ordinate the cataloguing using approaches from social history, material culture, art history and the history of collections, to provide a resource based on this rich, but under-studied, form of commercial ephemera. The catalogue was made live Spring 2009, providing scholars with a vital resource to continue the study and understanding of this material. The database has been designed to allow scholars to search by trade or product as well as by decorative motif or iconographic subject. A further field entitled ‘Research Concepts’ aims to facilitate searching the database through the lens of contemporary research interests. This developed a further project 'Marvels in the Market Place: Germanic Trade Cards at Waddesdon Manor', funded by the British Academy.

The project above was part of a larger Warwick-Waddesdon programme promoting the study of the archives and collections at Waddesdon Manor, seeking to develop connections between the historians at Warwick and elsewhere, and museum curators. Working with the Waddesdon collections, it developed further projects a) The St Aubin Album b) French Revolutionary Prints - currntly being developed by Colin Jones, Queen Mary College, University of London

* As Research Fellow involved with the Leverhulme Warwick-CNAM Research on Interchange of Cultures of Commerce and Invention directed by Professor Maxine Berg (History, University of Warwick) and Liliane Hilaire-Perez (CNAM), developing the comparative and interdisciplinary study of cultures of commerce and invention in Europe 1550-1850. It brought together researchers from the Warwick Eighteenth Century Centre and the Centre d’Histoire des Techniques, a collaboration between the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM), Paris and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) at the Universités de Paris IV and VIII. Scholars studying in conventionally distinct disciplines of economic history, cultural history, history of science and technology, art history, museum studies and material culture have contributed to an ongoing series of joint workshops and seminars exploring the histories of inventive cultures and consumer society. The topics investigated by the Research Interchange ranged from the role of product innovation and the commercial arts in culture to the promotion and advertising of new techniques and products and its connections with the transmission of knowledge.

Select Publications
  • Helen Clifford, Behind the Acanthus: The NADFAS Story, 2009
  • Helen Clifford, A Treasured Inheritence 600 Years of Oxford College Silver, Ashmolean Museum 2004
  • Helen Clifford, Silver in London The Parker and Wakelin Partnership 1760-1776, Yale University Press, 2004
  • Seymour Rabinovitch and Helen Clifford, Contemporary Silver Commissioning Designing Collecting, Merrell 2000
  • Maxine Berg and Helen Clifford, Consumers and luxury Consumer Culture in Europe 1650-1850, Manchester University Press, 1999
Chapter and Articles:
  • Helen Clifford, ‘Gold and the Rituals of Life’ in Helen Clifford ed. Gold: Power and Allure, Goldsmiths’ Company, 2012
  • Helen Clifford, 'Chapter 11: The Problem of Patina; Thoughts on the Changing Attitudes to Old and New Things', in A. Richmond and A. Bracker, Conservation Principles, Dilemmas and Uncomfortable Truths, Elsevier, 2009.
  • Helen Clifford, 'English Ingenuity, French Imitation and Spanish Desire: The intriguing case of cut steel jewellery from Woodstock and Wolverhampton', H.Perez (ed.), L'acier en Europe avant Bessemer, Paris 2009.
  • Maxine Berg and Helen Clifford, ‘Selling Consumption in the Eighteenth Century: Advertising and the Trade Card in Britain and France’, Cultural & Social History, 4 (2007), 145-170.
  • Helen Clifford, ''A Situation in Balance': Eric Clements and British Design from the late '40s to the early '70s', in Eric Clements Silver and Design 1950-2000, Goldsmiths' Company 2000.
  • Special Issue editor Journal of Design History vol.12, no.13 1999 'Eighteenth-Centiury Markets and Manufactures in England and France', author 'Concepts of Innovation, Identity and Imitation in the London and Provincial Metal-working Trades 1750-1800, pp.241-256.
  • Helen Clifford ‘A commerce with things: the value of precious metalwork in early modern England’, in Maxine Berg and Helen Clifford, Consumers and Luxury, Consumer Culture in Europe 1650-1850, Manchester University Press, 1999