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More Than Souvenirs

Lady Annie Brassey’s Curated Collections

Alison Clark, Catherine Harvey, Louise Kenward, and Julian Porter

Lady Annie Brassey (1839–1887) was a well-known Victorian travel writer who was also a collector, photographer, ethnographer, zoologist, and botanist and who traveled around the world aboard the privately owned yacht the Sunbeam. During these voyages she amassed a collection of approximately six thousand objects. Much more than tourist souvenirs, the collection shows a rigorous academic understanding of the disciplines she was collecting within. The ethnographic material, which makes up one-third of the collection, has gained little attention. Using her travel writing as a primary source, this article will interrogate Brassey’s role as the maker of this collection, someone whose class allowed her to travel and to pursue museum collection, curation, and education to a near-professional level. Through three case studies this article will consider how she collected and curated her own museum and used her collection for public benefit.