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Ovation helps preserve digital heritage of Camden Place

The Chislehurst Heritage Event

Camden Place in Chislehurst (Kent)
celebrates two very special anniversaries

Near Ovation’s headquarters in Orpington, Camden Place in Chislehurst (Kent) celebrates two very special anniversaries in 2023.

The first marks 150 years since the death in exile of Napoleon III, France’s first elected President and its last Emperor. He apparently planned to convert Camden Place from a Georgian Mansion to a French Chateau in case he needed a haven in England.

The second anniversary commemorates 400 years since antiquarian William Camden died at his home on the site. He is buried at Westminster Abbey, Poet’s Corner and is recognized as being instrumental in how we teach history today. Camden’s will made provision for a Chair of History at Oxford University, and is the oldest chair of history in the world.

Unlocked Secrets from the Past

Camden Place today is the home of Chislehurst Golf Club. Managing the unique heritage and archives at the club is quite a challenge, so Ovation was delighted to help by providing digital copies of two very important documents. One is a copy of the lease signed by the Empress Eugenie in 1873 when she assumed rental of Camden Place after Napoleon’s death.

The club approached Ovation because it wanted to provide a digital copy of the deteriorating document in the archive for people to review without further damaging the original. We were pleased to do so, and to use the copy to create visitor notebooks to serve as gifts as well as a way for heritage properties to raise much needed revenues.

The second document was even older, dating from the 1600s and still with original seals. Camden Place was concerned that frequently opening this folded document would cause more damage, and wanted researchers to be able to safely study the contents. The Ovation team has worked with many interesting documents in various formats but this was possibly the oldest we had ever faced. Great care was needed to prepare the document for digitizing, and results were excellent.

Ovation preserves and provides online access to data in all types of archives, whether from an obsolete database or from an old filing cabinet. Our services ensure that documents from even small archive collections can be conserved digitally and shared online for the widest possible access.

More than 600 people visited Camden Place during the heritage week of tours, talks and commemoration. The history and interiors of this English country house have been shaped by the migration of people and decoration for over 300 years. The building features architectural elements by British architects George Dance the Younger (1741–1825) and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart (1713– 1788), and played host to the French Imperial court after the fall of the Empire in 1870. French chimney pieces, boiseries from the eighteenth-century Château de Bercy (demolished in 1862), and heavily carved oak paneling are among elements that comprise the house’s many layers, reflecting nineteenth-century tastes and the histories of many English country houses.

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Eighteenth Century Boiseries

During the Chislehurst Heritage Event, Ovation joined Buckingham University to host a two-day academic conference which attracted curators, researchers and academics from France, Germany and the US. They joined English colleagues to consider the history of Camden Place and to investigate the cultural and commercial migrations of French eighteenth century boiseries from Paris to the drawing rooms of Britain and the United States. This presented a unique opportunity for historians of France, art and architecture, to meet with heritage professionals to discuss the dispersal of French cultural legacy in a room that had been reassembled from such panels.

From an historical perspective, boiseries have always been mobile. In the eighteenth century, Paris joiners and carvers travelled to locations outside the city to install paneling, and entire decorative schemes were sent abroad to Germany, Spain, and Latin America. Reflecting French style and accompanied by mirrors and tapestries from royal manufactories, these panel sets were broken up and dispersed to multiple locations. Shifting fashions and changes at Versailles meant that decors, including boiseries, were often rotated, as well as installed and removed from hotels.

It was during the nineteenth century when boiseries became relics of a changing history and began to be collected internationally. Elements of woodwork, either from demolished châteaux or reproduced, came to Britain and the United States, and were then altered to match changing tastes. Professional interior decorators and commercial dealers provided transportation channels, and boiseries also emigrated along with people leaving France.

Acknowledgements

Ovation is proud and honored to help Camden Place protect and preserve our heritage for future generations. We were pleased to offer expertise in digitally preserving important historical documents and to sponsor a special dinner commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of Napoleon III. We are grateful to the Chislehurst Society, the Chislehurst Golf Club, and our co-sponsor, the University of Buckingham, for allowing Ovation to be a part of the program of events.

Thanks to all who joined us, including Angela Hatton who provided a detailed and compelling tour to discover the rich history, secrets and uniqueness of Camden Place.

For more information, please visit:

www.boiseriescamdenplace.wordpress.com

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