Past Matter, Object No. 4: A Frame, and the Picture Within

The fourth object in our series is a picture frame purchased by Dr Jill Payne at Ashton Gate Flea Market a couple of years ago. It came with a free photograph…


I bought this with the aim of re-purposing its honestly-crafted little frame, barely registering the faded image itself. Once home, though, the emptiness of its provenance resounded loudly. I like uncluttered surfaces, but these craftspeople and their business proprietor (?) defy me to either remove them from their casing or put them out of sight: a scant trace of something that someone, somewhere, sometime, wanted to record.

Past Matter, Object No. 1: A Burmese Bookend

As part of the Past Matters festival of history that we have been running at the Department over the last few years we are focusing on objects. Things that have meaning and value to people. Over the coming year some of our PhD students and members of staff will be working with different communities and groups in Bristol on a variety of exciting projects. As part of the those projects we will be producing postcards of objects important to the people they will be working alongside. And you’ll be able to follow them on this blog, under the title Past Matter (see what we’ve done there…). But whilst these various projects get off the ground, we thought we’d start with ourselves. So, over the next few weeks we’re going to be posting photographs of some of our own objects, taken by our Deas Scholarship PhD student Vesna Lukic, with brief explanations of why they are important to us.

To kick things off, here’s Dr Jonathan Saha, specialist in colonial Burmese history, and his Burmese bookend…


This bookend was given to me by a friend who studied with me when I did my MA in Asian History. It was made in Burma and is a Chinthe, a mythological lion-like creature. His father had been in the country many decades earlier and had acquired it. It reminds me of the camaraderie of my MA experience, and the friends I have made on the journey to becoming a historian. It is also a tangible artifact from Burma’s past that, appropriately enough, keeps my academic history books upright on their shelf.