‘The Sitwells belong to the history of publicity rather than of poetry’, famously pronounced F. R. Leavis in New Bearings in English Poetry (1932).
Slowly but surely the history presented in museums is coming to the attention of academic historians. However, the relationship between museums, memory and history remains complex. In selecting what to collect, museums seek to define what is or is not history. In preserving their collections in perpetuity they act as a permanent, if selective, memory store.
Rachel Beer first caught my attention some 20 years ago when I was trawling through Who Was Who looking for journalists. She was unusual because she was the editor of The Sunday Times in the 1890s, when no other national newspaper had a woman editor. She was also deeply conscious of her background, proud of being a member of the wealthy and important Jewish family of Sassoon.