Who gets to create and define our national histories? What role do house museums and historic sites play in our public conversations about race?
The Shirley-Eustis House Association and the Loring Greenough House will host a discussion via Zoom with author Corinne Fowler on the ways Britain’s National Trust is reinterpreting its historic estates in light of the newly revealed colonialist profits of their builders. The event will be held on Friday, June 10, from 5-7 p.m.
Fowler is director of Colonial Countryside: National Trust Houses Reinterpreted and professor of English at Leicester University. She was editor of a report prepared by Britain’s National Trust in 2020 that researched people who were enslaved at the National Trust’s historic houses. The report revealed how profits from slave trading, sugar plantations and other imperial enterprises fueled the expansion of many of these estates during the 18th and 19th centuries, even after the abolition of slavery in Britain. The National Trust’s report sparked a backlash from conservative politicians who saw it as an attack on the very idea of Englishness. While the ongoing impact of that report in the wake of the pandemic has yet to be measured the topic is a timely one for fans of historic house museums in the United States: the recent racial equity controversy at Montpelier, the home of President Madison, reminds us that the politics of deciding who gets to define our history extends into the heritage tourism industry.
“We are looking forward to this discussion,” said Lorie Komlyn, co-president of the Loring Greenough House. “Both the Shirley-Eustis House and the Loring Greenough House were products of British colonial expansion and, for their owners, the country house represented the apex of English civilization. We are just beginning to explore the many social and economic layers of that cultural phenomenon.”
As a part of her discussion, Fowler will discuss her book Green Unpleasant Land, which looks at the creative ways Black and white Britons are reclaiming and redefining their role in the historical creation of the British countryside.
To register visit eventbrite.com/e/recovering-black-history-in-historic-houses-lessons-from-britain-tickets-346342428527. This event costs $14 to attend, but some tickets are available at a reduced rate for EBT cardholders. To inquire about discounted tickets, call 617-442-2275 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.