“Precious Objects: The Material Culture of Nineteenth-Century Child Celebrities.” York Circle. York University. Toronto, ON. Nov. 2015.
Snuff boxes, figurines, fans, medals, paper dolls, cups, sketches, tables, eggs, and ink pots. What do these seemingly disparate objects suggest about the production and consumption of child celebrity in the early to mid-nineteenth century? What do they reveal about audience-performer relations and the labour undertaken by child performers in service to national or imperial agendas? And how might historians use these objects to re(dis)cover lost, overlooked, or forgotten performance repertoires? Responding to the recent “material culture” turn within theatre and performance studies and the uptake of “thing theory” by historians of the Victorian era, this talk will explore the careers of two celebrated child performers¾Master William Henry West Betty and Jean Margaret Davenport¾through the objects that circulated alongside them as they traveled from city to city and from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other.