A talk by Dr. May Rosenthal Sloan discussing the relationship between food and the institution. Using the Victoria & Albert Museum as a case study, Rosenthal Sloan examines museum visitors’ historic encounters with food, and the potential for such encounters to be developed in ways that encourage challenging conversations, and even enact lasting change.
The land on which the V&A now stands was once occupied by orchards and nurseries that supplied fruit trees to country estates outside London. As the city expanded and the South Kensington museum was built, the site switched from the production to the consumption of food – both food itself and food knowledge. From the world’s first museum restaurant to displays explaining the brand new science of diet to fish hatcheries that educated the public on aquaculture, a series of ‘firsts’ will be considered in the context of social shifts, scientific discourse and fast changing food systems in the mid-nineteenth century. This historic period of economic, social and cultural flux contextualises an examination of the role that today’s museums can play in understanding contemporary food systems, and providing space for debate and collaboration which could help us re-imagine more desirable food futures.
Dr. May Rosenthal Sloan is a historian with expertise in the study of food and ethnic and national identities. Before joining the V&A she was employed as a lecturer in modern American history at the University of Glasgow, where she also gained her PhD, with a project titled Culinary Mongrelism: Food and Constructions of Identity in London and New York since 1945.
Rachel Adams invited Dr. May Rosenthal Sloan to give this talk to coincide with her Project Space commission, Right Twice a Day.