CFP: Transforming Topography (London, 6 May 2016)

Transforming Topography
Friday, May 6th, 2016 – The British Library
The British Library and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art are delighted to announce a call for papers for an international conference on transforming topography.
The conference will be interdisciplinary in nature, and we invite contributions from art historians, architectural historians, map scholars, historians, cultural geographers, independent researchers, and museum professionals (including early-career) which contribute to current re-definitions of topography. We welcome contributions that engage with specific items from the British Library’s topographical collections and highlight the copious nuances that can be explored within topography, including, but not limited to:

  • Topography versus landscape: topography’s position within registers of pictorial representation.
  • Topography’s boundaries with other forms of knowledge, such as antiquarianism.
  • The role and identity of the artists and writers employed in producing topographical images and texts.
  • Topographic techniques and conventions, repetitions in text and image
  • Patrons and collectors of topographical material: topography as a social and cultural practice, the circulation, use and display of these objects.
  • Topography and the library, museum or gallery.

Topography is an emerging and dynamic field in historical scholarship. The Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain exhibition of 2009/2010 (Nottingham, Edinburgh, London) and subsequent research has sought a redefinition of topography. Rather than seeing topographical art as marginal compared to the landscapes in oils or watercolours by the canon of ‘great artists’ or more imaginative and Sublime images, a growing number of scholars are embracing the historical study of images of specific places in their original contexts, sparking a lively debate around nationhood, identity, and cultural value, or what John Barrell describes as ‘the conflict and coexistence of the various…“stakeholders” in the landscape and in its representation’ (Barrell, Edward Pugh of Ruthin, 2013).
The British Library holds the world’s most extensive and important collection of British topographic materials, including George III’s King’s Topographical Collection, currently being re-catalogued. There are hundreds of thousands of images and texts, including unique compilations of prints and drawings, rare first editions, maps, extra-illustrated books, and handwritten notes across the collections: all of which exhibit the broad range of forms and subject matter which topographical material can take. Using the BL’s main online catalogue and typing in ‘George III, views’ will give you a taste of what is available, as will the entry for the British Library in M.W. Barley’s A Guide to British Topographical Collections (1974). The majority of topographic materials are not listed individually, so if you need help finding specific items please contact Alice Rylance-Watson, Research Curator, at 
Please send proposals (of no more than 300 words) accompanied by a brief biography to Ella Fleming, Events Manager, by 5.00pm on 30th September 2015.

Share this post

News from the field

The Spaces of the Sacred

Sainte-Marie de la Tourette Convent (Eveux, Rhône), Wednesday 11 January 2023 The Spaces of the Sacred offers a space for reflection and debate for anyone who understands sacred spaces as laboratories for architectural, urban and landscape research. This definition...

Designing Urban Universities

Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin Thursday 22 to Saturday 24 June 2023 This three-day conference, hosted by the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Trinity College Dublin, will debate the significance and development of urban universities...

Footprint 34: Narrating Shared Futures

‘How will we live together?’, asked Hashim Sarkis, curator of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale. He echoed the plea by his predecessor David Chipperfield (13th Venice Architecture Biennale, 2012) for a common ground that could illustrate ‘shared ideas that form...