Swept under the carpet? Servants in London households, 1600-2000

High Life Below Stairs by James Caldwell after John Collet, 1772

High Life Below Stairs by James Caldwell after John Collet, 1772

Swept under the carpet? Servants in London households, 1600-2000

This special exhibition at the Geffrye Museum will explore domestic service and the experiences of servants living and working in middle-class homes over the last 400 years. Entry is free.

 

Open now until Sun 4 Sep

 

Servants are taking over the Geffrye’s parlours, drawing rooms and living rooms…

This special exhibition explores domestic service and the experiences of servants living and working in middle-class homes over the last four hundred years, giving a glimpse into a world often overlooked by historians.

New scenarios and subtle interventions in the museum’s period rooms illustrate the changing nature of the servant’s work and the relationship between master and servant over time – from the intimacy of a maid checking her master’s hair for nits in the late 17th century, to an ayah caring for the children of an Angle-Indian family in the late 19th century, to a French au-pair picking up after the children she looks after in 1960.

These narratives highlight how servants – once part of the household family; and enmeshed in intimate relationships with their employers, gradually disappeared from the spaces of family life to the kitchens and garrets.

Swept Under the Carpet? is guest curated by Tessa Chynoweth and Laura Humphreys, AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award researchers from the Centre of Studies of Home – a partnership between the Geffrye and Queen Mary, University of London.