We are delighted to share the outcomes of a research project by one of our 2022/23 Understanding British Portraits Fellows, Stephanie Roberts.

The Blind Harpists: Another Look is a project that challenged outdated ideas about blindness in museums. For this project, Steph invited a group of blind or vision-impaired artists and contributors – Bridie, Emma, Siân, Lou, and Margaret – to work alongside her to take ‘another look’ at portraits of Blind Harpists in the historic art collection at National Museum Cardiff. Over the course of a day-long workshop, the group had lively and meaningful conversations about the portraits, the representation of blindness in art, and what it means as disabled people to be ‘seen’ – or not – by our cultural institutions. The conversations that took place during this workshop informed the creation of new Audio Descriptions, and updated interpretation for the portraits.

This bilingual film (in Welsh and English) documents the workshop, and includes interviews with some of those who took part. Further details about the project, and the version of the film which features Audio Description, can be accessed here, and click here for the new, co-created audio descriptions of the portraits.

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This series of short films was produced by Understanding British Portraits Fellow, Robert Meakings, as part of his research project: Portraits, Patronage and Politics: The Aclands in Oil. The film series seeks to re-evaluate the importance of the Acland family and celebrate the work of the artists whom they employed.

The Acland family are one of the oldest and most important West Country landowners who by the 19th century had amassed over 40,000 acres. Over the centuries, the Acland family developed a reputation for philanthropy and for putting their principals and beliefs before their careers. The portrait collection at Killerton is the most significant part of its collection and the most powerful tool for interpreting the property for visitors, as they have the potential to offer a vivid account of the people who lived here and left their mark on the house, its landscape and society, both on a local and national stage.

Each film highlights a different family portrait displayed at Killerton. They cover the history of the family from the 16th century to the mid-20th century, starting with John Acland (d. 1553) and ending with Sir Richard Dyke Acland who gifted Killerton and Holnicote to the National Trust in 1944. From their house and land at Columbjohn to extensive estates on Exmoor and around Killerton, the portraits reflect the changing fortunes and growing power of the Acland family.

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This short film by event Fellow Aksana Khan builds on the Understanding British Portraits webinar of November 2020, ‘From De-Colonial to Anti-Colonial – What’s Next for Museum Interpretation?

Here, Aksana reflects on how the seismic events of 2020 have impacted the arts, museum and heritage sectors, and what remains to be done. Aksana speaks with two early career contemporary artists, Tayo Adekunle and Nilupa Yasmin, about the legacies of empire, decentring the white gaze, and what an anti-racist gallery or museum space might look like.

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Short film by UBP Fellow Gemma Haigh reflecting on John Russell’s pastel portraits of female sitters in the Guildford Heritage Service collection (2021).

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Three short films by UBP Fellow Dr Imogen Tedbury in which she explores paintings of former College Principals in the Royal Holloway and Bedford College art collection (2021).

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Principals and Pioneers – Episode 1: Margaret Tuke

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Principals and Pioneers – Episode 2: Ellen Charlotte Higgins by William Orpen

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Principals and Pioneers – Episode 3: Dame Emily Penrose by Philip Alexius de László



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Highlights film from UBP nework and Engage conference, Engaging Young People aged 14-21 with Portraits, and Stephanie Ampofo’s poem ‘Picture Portraiture’, Leeds Art Gallery, 21 January 2020


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Highlights film from joint Subject Specialist Network conference, Why Exhibitions? Strategies, audiences, and future directions’ conference, 21-22 February 2018


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Dr Jim Cheshire discusses the wider context of his 2017 Annual Seminar presentation, ‘Tennyson, Photography and Portraiture 1857-92’, at the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln

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Annual Seminar 2017, short highlights film.

See podcasts of the presentations here >>


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Understanding British Portraits Fellowships 2016

The network granted three Fellowships to museum professionals in spring 2016; Kate Noble & Lucy Shipp (Fitzwilliam Museum); Su Hepburn (Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton), and Laura Millward (Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds). With funding and support over the following year, the recipients have completed their respective projects. In this short film the Fellows discuss their respective projects, principal research findings, and project outputs.


Podcasts from the Hardwick Hall Study day, 1 March 2016

All available here >>


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Understanding British Portraits Woburn Abbey study day, 9 December 2015

See highights from this study day examining the collection of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey. Further details on the event here >>


AS 2015

Podcasts from the Annual Seminar, 25 November 2015

All available here >>


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Anna Moore introduces her Bursary research on Samuel Percy (c.1750-1819)

Anna Moore, Acting Curator of Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, discusses her research into the late Georgian wax portraitist Samuel Percy (c.1750—1819), conducted with the support of an Understanding British Portraits Bursary in 2014/15.