Redisplaying the Buddhist Collection at Chiddingstone Castle

Speakers: Naomi Collick and Dr Nick Swann

To book: Redisplaying the Buddhist Collection at Chiddingstone Castle – The Courtauld

Photograph of Denys Eyre Bower’s Buddhist Room, Chiddingstone Castle. Image courtesy of the Chiddingstone Castle archive.

Chiddingstone Castle is a historic house and accredited museum in Kent, which holds the collections of the last private owner, Denys Eyre Bower (1905 – 1977). Bower had a personal interest in Buddhism, and it was a key part of his identity. His understanding, display, and interpretation of the collection was informed by attitudes towards Buddhism in the West of the early 20th century. In Bower’s ‘Buddhist Room’, the original context and sacred significance of the objects was secondary to their aesthetic qualities, and their new meaning as the curiosities of a collector.

In 2018, the opportunity arose to redisplay the Buddhist collection and to reconsider how it is interpreted. The current display is the result of consultation, collaboration, and research over the past six years. The displays have been developed with the support and insight of members of the Buddhist and Tibetan communities in the UK, and specialists in Buddhism and Buddhist art. This work has supported the castle’s ongoing aim of decolonising the collection and uncovering new stories, perspectives, and meanings behind the objects.

Naomi Collick has worked as the Curator at Chiddingstone Castle in Kent since 2018. The castle is a historic house and museum which holds the Buddhist, Japanese, Stuart and Jacobite, and Ancient Egyptian collections of the last private owner. She is a graduate of Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford and the History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia at SOAS. Her interests are Japanese art from the Edo and Meiji periods, and the display of Buddhist art in museums.

Dr Nick Swann is Senior Lecturer in Buddhist Studies at University of South Wales. His research interests include decoloniality in education, as well as the use of games and innovation in learning Buddhist languages. He is currently Secretary of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies.

This event is organised by Lori Wong (Senior Lecturer in Conservation) and Dr Sujatha Meegama (Senior Lecturer in Art History) as part of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Art and Conservation at The Courtauld.