The Trickster Prince

Matt Houlbrook: mobile historian; beard growing, head shaving; occasional cycling.

Hidden Objects and Untold Histories

Modern British Studies Birmingham

There are stories bound up in objects which are hidden in plain sight. A pot donkey silently carries memories down through generations; an unopened envelope of newspaper cuttings tells of journeys in the past. Untold histories surround us, on mantelpieces and in display cabinets.


There is a small bureau in the corner of our box room in Birmingham. Standing on fresh-painted floorboards, its scuff marks and scratches and tea ring patina suggest the passing decades. A glass fronted display cabinet reminds us of what it has hidden in the past; a fold-down writing desk conceals drawers, shelves, scraps of paper. Look closely enough, and here are the traces of my family’s recent history.

The bureau hasn’t always been in a box room in Birmingham. It reminds me of other rooms, places, lives. Thinking back through offices in Oxford and Liverpool takes me to my grandma’s sunlit corner room in Nassau…

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This entry was posted on May 18, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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