I study the evolution of historic house interpretation for the visiting public from the 1940s to the present day, mainly focusing on National Trust and English Heritage properties and complemented by a few privately-owned houses. I use a wide-range of source material, including guidebooks, organisations' reports, oral histories, newspapers and magazines, exhibition material and so forth to construct this new aspect of country house history.
The purpose of this research is to identify how narratives at country houses have been constructed across this time period, to look at which stories have been included and, perhaps more importantly, what has been excluded, and how and why those decisions were made. By teasing out the patterns contained in this (often overlooked) material, my research will also shed new light on shifts in attitudes towards class, race and gender within post-war British society right up to the present day, and create an overarching history for the evolution of country house interpretation.
Overall, I hope this work will be of real value to present-day curators. By simultaneously offering an overview of how and why perceptions and interpretation of the country house have evolved since the mid-20th century, my research can underpin the curatorial decision-making process with a thorough understanding of how we have reached where we are now, and can thereby be used to justify or challenge current interpretative strategies at these properties.