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Sarah V. Turner: Exhibition Histories, Digital Futures: Researching, Curating, and Publishing 250 Years of the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition
Sarah V. Turner: Exhibition Histories, Digital Futures: Researching, Curating, and Publishing 250 Years of the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition
WhenThursday, Apr. 25, 2019, 4 – 5:30 p.m.
Campus locationAllen Library (ALB)
Campus roomAllen Auditorium
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsCo-sponsored by Textual Studies

The Royal Academy of Arts in London marked its 250-year anniversary in 2018. Every year without fail, since 1769, the Royal Academy has held an annual summer exhibition earning it the accolade of being the world’s longest-running annual display of art. In this time, more than 40,000 contemporary artists have shown more than 300,000 works. This lecture will reflect on the process of researching, writing, curating and publishing such an extensive exhibition history and its afterlives. As well as co-curating a physical exhibition to mark 250 years of the Royal Academy’s  Summer Exhibition, Sarah Turner worked with a team at the Paul Mellon Centre in London and over 90 authors to develop an online publication and resource, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769-2018 ( This digital resource provides free access to digitized versions of all 250 exhibition catalogues of the Summer Exhibition, along with short interpretative essays about each year, data visualisations and information about key events that contextualise the exhibition since its inauguration in 1769.

Such a project, amalgamating a wealth of art historical analysis, data sets, and digital archival collections, is certainly only possible through online publication. What kind of new histories does such a digital project produce (or might produce in the future), not only concerning exhibition histories, but also the broader landscape of the art market, the careers of the artists who participated, the people who attended, and the critical debates that surrounded each iteration of this exhibition? What might escape such a ‘chronicle’ or chronological structure? What are the new narrative journeys made available by the digital platform and the online format of the publication with the possibilities for presenting text, image and multimedia? In the spirit of the Next Generation Humanities initiative, this lecture will reflect on the new, or adapted, modes of art historical analysis that such a collaborative digital project encourages and provides.

Sarah Victoria Turner is Deputy Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in London and is co-editor of British Art Studies. She is also Visiting Senior Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art. In 2018, she was elected full fellow of the Royal Scoiety of Arts. Sarah was the co-curator of The Great Spectacle: 250 of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, at the Royal Academy in London (June – August 2018) and is the co-editor of an accompanying digital publication The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle,  1769-2018 (, Paul Mellon Centre, 2018). Sarah’s research interests encompass many aspects of British art from 1850 to 1950 and she has most recently published work on the artist William Crozier (Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2017) and co-edited a collection of essay with Kate Nichols, After 1851: the Material and Visual Cultures of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham (Manchester University Press, 2017).

Turner also hosts a workshop on "Online Publishing Now," on Friday, April 26, at 10 am in Communications 202. Questions? Contact Sonal Khullar (Art History) at

Part of Rethinking the Global Turn, a Next Generation Humanities PhD project of the Simpson Center for the Humanities.

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