Myths, Migration and Marginalisation

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Representations of the Romany in Art, Literature and Society

Wednesday 8 April – Saturday 13 June 2015

This exhibition coincides with our new temporary show George Morland: In the Margins. According to Morland’s biographer, Sir Walter Gilbey, “the life-like character of his gipsy pictures” was down to the fact that Morland “often associated with gipsies, and…lived with them for days together, adopting their mode of life, and sleeping with them in barns at night”.[i]

Morland found the Romany way of life and customs appealing and he often depicts travellers in a sympathetic, romantic fashion. However, he also identified with their refusal to compromise their beliefs just to conform to society. Traditionally, the Roma yearn to live outside yet socially, they are also outsiders. It is partly due to their defiance and difference that travellers have always been regarded with curiosity, suspicion, and have even faced persecution since they first began migrating to England from their native India in the early 16th century.

Drawing on photographs, books, manuscripts and original objects from the designated Romany Collection in Special Collections, Myths, Migration and Marginalisation: Representations of the Romany in Art, Literature and Society will begin to explore how and why travellers have come to be regarded as ‘other’.

The Romany Collection held in Special Collections at Leeds University Library is one of the most important research collections in the UK. Its origins are in a collection assembled privately by Mrs D.U. McGrigor Phillips [Dorothy Una Ratcliffe] and presented to the Library by her in 1950. At that time, the collection contained some 650 items, but, through purchasing and further gifts, its size had almost doubled when the printed Catalogue of the Romany Collection was published (Edinburgh, Nelson, 1962). The collection’s size had progressed to some 2,000 items by 2002, when the gift to Leeds of Sir Angus Fraser’s remarkable Gypsy library of over 1,500 items was received.

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