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Differencing the Canon: Methods of Researching and Archiving Women's Sculptural Practices


The Hepworth Wakefield

Conference dates
Friday 23 September 2022, 9:30am - 6:00pm

Keynote speakers
Professor Griselda Pollock (Professor Emerita of Social and Critical Histories of Art, University of Leeds) in conversation with Harriet Loffler (Curator, The Women’s Art Collection, Cambridge)

Conference outline

There has been a focus in recent years on corrective approaches to the history of British sculpture. Art historical and sociological research alongside curatorial activities have highlighted the marginalisation of women working in sculpture from historical accounts, institutional collections and archives, exhibiting opportunities, career development and educational training. Publications and exhibitions have worked to introduce women’s names to alternative narratives previously dominated by men, including Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945 (Arts Council Collection/touring 2021), and Fifty Women Sculptors (Aurora Metro Books, 2020).

Questions remain, however, regarding how, as researchers, archivists, art historians, curators, researchers and sculptors, we undertake our strategic, reparative work of inclusion. Is there a risk that a merely supplementary but still selective canon of some women practitioners will be produced, curated, collected, written about, archived and so become financially and art historically ‘valued'? This symposium seeks to challenge the historical and curatorial deselection of artist-women and develop innovative and extended research methods that are attentive to more inclusive value systems. It seeks expanded narratives, to build, and archive, a fuller picture of the sculptural practices of women in all their diversity.

We welcome proposals from individuals or collaborators of diverse professional practices and disciplines for 20-minute presentations. Proposals may include performative, video-based and conversational elements, or other formats. Topics may include, but are not limited to the following areas:

  • Case studies of novel research methodologies (including oral histories, sociological and ethnographic based research, curating or archiving as research) which address intersectional and entangled histories and understandings of sculptural and artistic practices. 
  • How research may challenge hierarchical notions of materials, processes and forms of distribution, acknowledging the contribution of women to the expanded sculptural field
  • Case studies of innovative archival practices, methods and interpretation (e.g. digital, web-based, sound, social media, etc.)
  • The politics of archives and the challenges of corrective collecting – questions of inclusion, exclusion and intersectionality.

This symposium is organised by Dr Anna Douglas and Dr Kerry Harker (Curatorial Researchers, The Hepworth Wakefield) in collaboration with Rosamund Lily West (Kingston University) and the Henry Moore Institute and will form the closing event of the Institute’s Researching Women in Sculpture season.

Researching Women in Sculpture reflects upon women's contribution to the field of sculpture, investigating archival and collecting practices that have historically obscured work by women and suggesting strategies for how these might be addressed going forward.

Find out more about our Researching Women in Sculpture Research Season



This symposium is open to researchers, practitioners and museum or archival professionals from all backgrounds and disciplines. Please email proposals of no more than 300 words, along with a 150-word biographical note, by Monday 4 July 2022.

We request that submissions state the method of delivery i.e. conference paper, in-conversation, film, performance, etc and indicate if AV technology will be required. Please note that the symposium will be held in-person at The Hepworth Wakefield, and travel and accommodation for speakers will be funded by the Henry Moore Institute.

Proposals should be emailed to with the email subject ‘Differencing the Canon Proposal’.