Lord Curzon, the National Trust, and the Eastern Museum - by Restore Trust

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Restore Trust is a grass-roots pressure group of current and former National Trust members formed in response to the charity’s controversial report detailing historic connections between some of its properties and the slave trade.


The research sparked fierce debate on social media about the charity’s work and caused the Charity Commission to open a compliance case into the National Trust.


But in March the regulator found that there was “no grounds for regulatory action”.


Despite the commission’s findings, Restore Trust said it would like to see the charity get back to what the pressure group called its “real mission”.


Chief among its concerns is the National Trust’s highly selective historical interpretation of the life of George Nathanial Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899-1905 whose family home is Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire.


There is widespread concern that the description of historic items acquired by Curzon during his time in India are being changed, and with it, the context in which they were acquired. A subtle re-writing of history in other words.


We are therefore delighted to publish the enclosed article on the subject by Restore Trust which they have written for History Reclaimed, itself a web-based pressure group of “independent scholars with a wide range of opinions on many subjects, but with the shared conviction that history requires careful interpretation of complex evidence, and should not be a vehicle for facile propaganda.


Examples of bias or omission in the report are too numerous to mention here, but two examples should suffice by way of example:


The first concerns the use of loaded phrases. ‘Spoils of Empire’ is a particular favourite. In describing the Eastern Museum at Kedleston, the National Trust website tells us:


“It displays many of the precious objects acquired by George Curzon during his Viceroyship of India and related travels in Asia and the Middle East. With an emphatically colonial provenance, this collection represents a diversity of cultural and artistic traditions as well as the spoils of empire."


But as Restore Trust points out:


“It is clear from the speech given by Lord Curzon at the opening of the exhibition in Delhi that the event was designed to celebrate and encourage the highest standards of art and craftsmanship in India. It is misleading to describe the collection as ‘emphatically colonial’. Since Lord Curzon bought or was given these objects, it is also not accurate to call them ‘spoils.’ ”


A second example concerns a school trip:

"As part of the Colonial Countryside project, a group of children from a local primary school spoke in videos and wrote poems about some of the objects at Kedleston Hall. The National Trust website told us that ‘their take on the objects shows the collection in a new light.’


On the portrait of Lord Curzon, the children muse on his wealth and importance and wonder what he was like as a person.


This poem also appears:


He thinks he’s strong, trying to take over India. Although this was successful, he still didn’t have any believers. Trying to look posh by ill-treating animals, for some reason, this makes him popular with the British. Some of the Indians, they tried to get their country back, organising a siege. Although this worked, it came at a cost.


Unsurprisingly, the child’s response offers us no fresh insights. Little attention is paid to factual accuracy, nor is there any attempt at nuance or empathy.


The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:



Lord Curzon the National Trust and the Eastern Museum by Restore Trust
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Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire


 

In welcome contrast to some of the things going on at Kedleston, we turn our attention to the next generation and the enthusiasm many of them have in our nation's heritage and their wish to participate in the National Trust's agenda for the future.


Alice Loxton provides her perspective as a 25 year-old on what the Trust needs to do to attract new members which steers well clear of the Culture Wars. As she herself says:


"Young people up and down the country are nerdily obsessed with history: they love it. A quick scroll through TikTok will tell you that: millions of “views” of someone dressed like a Tommy, or vintage trains pulling into stations, or the secrets of London’s streets. Those viewers are rich pickings for the Trust. So what about a year’s free membership when they graduate?


What else?


"The Trust could be providing the go-to venues for balls, dinners, speed-dating, days out – with a coach to and from campus as part of the package. London’s galleries and museums have been on the pulse here for years.


The Royal Academy, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, London Zoo, the Natural History Museum: they’ve all become Gen Z havens with their late-night parties. It’s time for the National Trust to catch up. Let’s hold yoga sessions at Stourhead; let’s have ’20s nights at Charlecote Park.


Install a Spoons at Ham House, if that’s what it takes. Let’s have camping and festivals and music and comedy and cooking; let’s be the home of surfers and swimmers and hikers. Let’s have a bit more life. Something else – anything else – than yet another pumpkin trail."


The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:


Article for the Telegraph by Alice Loxton -The National Trust must start appealing to the
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Alice Loxton

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