Last week I met with the historian Jenni Dixon to discuss a project I'm working on that is inspired by Birmingham's manufacturing heritage. Jenni is a local historian with a wealth of knowledge concerning Birmingham's past. Aside from her academic work, she also works as a historic advisor with development consultant organisation Made.
She is currently researching a PHD thesis with the University of Birmingham, exploring the objects created in the city during the 18th and early 19th century. Her understanding of this subject is just as widespread and pervasive as her enthusiasm
My project is about exploring the objects created within the city during the years of its industrial expansion, so it was brilliant to meet someone who shares my interest. One of the motivations for the project comes from a feeling that Birmingham's design heritage has still not been fully appreciated, so I was fascinated to learn that as early as the 18th century Birmingham manufacturers were challenging their right to be seen as artists. Jenni also told me about a building called the 'Pantechnetheca' created in the 1820s and originally sited on New Street. The building, also known as the 'Repository for the Arts', functioned as part showroom, part museum, for the work of local designers in the region. The building was designed in the style of a greek temple and featured statues representing alternate facets of the arts.
Aside from giving me some brilliant leads, Jenni gave me some great advice as well as encouragement.
To read Jenni's brilliant and minutely researched blog about the city, head to Mapping Birmingham