TIDE Exhibition

Bodleian promo image global networks larger

A traveller to Elizabethan Oxford would, much like today, encounter medieval chapels, wood-panelled dining halls, and ink-stained books. They would also find tobacco pipes, maps, multilingual dictionaries, even an Aztec codex – objects that brought the diverse knowledge and craftsmanship of other peoples into libraries and private chambers. At the printer Joseph Barnes’ shop in St Mary’s Passage, students and townspeople could pick up John Smith’s Map of Virginia (1612) and read accounts of the travels of Walter Raleigh to South America, or of Thomas Roe to India.

Curated by Nandini Das, Lauren Working, and Emily Stevenson, and drawing upon ERC-TIDE project research, you can now see ‘Oxford’s Global Networks’ in Blackwell Hall, at the Weston Library. It showcases some of Oxford’s connections to global travel in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. From geographies to student plays, these sources reveal various ways that individuals thought about the world and their place within it in an age of trade and colonial expansion. They are displayed alongside artworks by Loraine Rutt that illuminate the materials in new ways.

The miniature porcelain globes, and domestic scale vessels included in the exhibition seek hidden narratives and invite discussion. The soft porcelain sheets of clay, hand-shaped and inflated by breath to resemble sails, echo with the sounds of the sea when held to the ear. Regarded in this way, they become listening vessels, receptacles for the voices of the unheard.

The exhibition will run until 27 August 2023.

TIDE would welcome short blog posts that respond to this display, which could be reflections on the displayed objects and texts, or about additional relevant holdings at the Bodleian. If you are interested in writing something, please get in touch through tide@ell.ox.ac.uk.