The mobile museum: Collecting and circulating Indian textiles in Victorian Britain

Felix Driver, Sonia Ashmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the 1860s and 70s, the India Office in London produced over 30,000 hand-cut and mounted samples of Indian textiles in a series of albums for circulation to chambers of commerce and design schools in Britain and India. Described by their creator John Forbes Watson as “trade museums,” these albums were intended to educate manufacturers about the Indian market. In this paper, we consider the relationship between the collection and circulation of textiles—not only in the form of specimen fabrics, but also as abstracted patterns or as elements in theatrical performances. The circulation of knowledge in these various forms raises wider questions about the relationships between text, textiles, and Victorian cultures of display.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-385
Number of pages32
JournalVictorian Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • textiles
  • collections
  • museums
  • exhibitions
  • forbes watson
  • purdon clarke
  • owen jones

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