Symposium: What is Furniture History?

This two day symposium at the University of Leeds seeks to explore furniture history as a subject and to reflect 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.

The symposium programme includes a facilitated tour at Temple Newsam (part of Leeds Museums & Galleries) to explore the world-class furniture collections at the house, as well as an opportunity to see extra materials from the collection of John Bedford at the University.

What is Furniture History? 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 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 symposium programme can be found here.

Booking information

It is possible to attend the symposium in person or as an online delegate.

Book your place.

For more information, email Mark Westgarth at


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