Symposium: What is Furniture History?

This symposium at the University of Leeds explores furniture history as a subject and reflects on what furniture history of the future might look like.

The history of furniture remains one of the dominant areas of interest within the history of the so-called ‘Decorative Arts’.

Since it emerged in the 19th century, scholarship focused on furniture history has expanded far beyond the interests of its earlier pioneers, transforming furniture history as a discipline.

This two-day symposium seeks to explore furniture history as a subject and to reflect on what furniture history of the future might look like.

The event is organised as part of the exhibition Part of the Furniture: The Library of John Bedford – running at Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, University of Leeds, until 21 December 2024 – in collaboration with Temple Newsam, Leeds.

More information

The symposium programme will include facilitated tours at Temple Newsam (part of Leeds Museums and Galleries) to explore the world class furniture collections at the house. There will also be an opportunity to see extra materials from the collection of John Bedford at the University of Leeds.

The cost for conference delegates (in person) is £25 per person (2 days); £15 per person (1 day). This includes refreshments and lunch, in addition to transport to Temple Newsam. It is free for speakers to attend and here is no cost for online delegates.

The Regional Furniture Society (RFS) are very generously offering financial support for five students (part-time or full-time) or early career professionals in the field to attend the conference. Please see the RFS website for details.

The full programme and how to book, will be made available here nearer the time.

For more information, email Mark Westgarth at

Call for papers

We are currently inviting submissions for papers on themes related to the history of furniture, focused on any period, any geography, from scholars, museum professionals, collectors, dealers, and furniture makers.

See the full call for papers.

Deadline: Monday 15 April.


Henry Lawford, The cabinet of practical, useful and decorative furniture designs, London, 1855. Image © Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.