My name is Rachel Maloney and I would like to welcome you to the blog site for my research project entitled: “Looking for the Matriarchive”. Please read on for more information on my previous work and my current V&A Fellowship project.
I am a Brighton based artist and researcher, currently working as a Technical Demonstrator in Photography at the University of Brighton. After gaining an MA in photography in 2015, I became interested in memory and personal narrative within family photographs and archival collections. This inspired me to search for opportunities and ultimately in 2019, I was awarded the Victoria and Albert Museum Research Exchange Fellowship for the 2019-2020 academic year.
My most recent body of work entitled ‘Pressed’ (2019) was an installation piece focusing on a collection of items that belonged to my maternal grandmother, including a flower press I made with her over twenty years ago.
Video produced by Matt Page, Copyright 2019.
My experience and interest in archival collections stems from a project I worked on for the University of Sussex, which aimed to promote and increase access to the German Jewish Family Archives. Working with predominately family-based collections, the materials offered a fascinating insight into pre- and post-war German Jewish life through a domestic framework. The archival materials included photographs, albums, letters, personal diaries, pressed flowers and keepsakes that began to unveil a narrative dominated from a uniquely female perspective, potentially because the act of collecting and caring for these items was primarily undertaken by women.
My current fellowship project “Looking for the Matriarchive” focuses on uncovering the often-marginalised female narrative of materials held in the V&A’s Royal Photographic Society collection. I began my archival research looking specifically at the uncatalogued Burnip Album, a beautifully hand decorated Victorian photograph album with the name ‘Mary’ embossed on the front cover. This album dates from around 1870 and its pages contain a mixture of family photographs, carte-de-visite portraits and hand painted embellishments with a ‘feminine’ aesthetic. This album raises questions about the social and cultural roles of both photography and femininity, and it prompted my desire to find out more about the women connected to this album, to allow their voices to be heard and re-framed.
The other aspect of the project will involve engaging with a public audience through events and activities. These events will include research workshops that invite participants to share and discuss their own family archives. In addition, I plan to organise talks, seminars, student sessions in the V&A archives and write regular blog posts here, on this site.
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