Conversation piece: British and Irish furniture makers go digital

Monday 30 October 2017
Conversation piece, a cabinet maker’s office. Oil Painting, England, c. 1770 (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Image No. 2006BF4151-01)

The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, has teamed up with the Furniture History Society to launch a new online resource for historians of the British and Irish furniture trade. This comprehensive database, British and Irish Furniture Makers Online (BIFMO), is the first phase of a project that will contain detailed biographies of British and Irish furniture makers from the 16th century to the present day.  

The initial phase, which was launched on 17 October, comprises data on English furniture makers drawn from the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660–1840, and the London Joiners’ Company apprenticeship and freedom records, 1640–1720.

When completed, BIMFO will provide a rich resource for historians of social, economic, political, art, furniture and material culture, as well as to collectors, connoisseurs and the art market. In addition to extending the chronological dates of the database’s biographical data, the IHR aims to broaden the contents of BIFMO to visual materials, as well as the reproduction of a wide range of primary sources.

The second phase of this ambitious initiative will explore key historical questions surrounding the furniture making industry, including a case study on the role of British and Irish women in the nineteenth century: where they lived, their occupational roles, how they sold their wares, and their clientele.

‘Ongoing development to the BIFMO website will introduce new ways of engaging with the data as we enhance the information in the Dictionary with new scholarship published since 1986,’ explains Dr Laurie Lindey, a research officer on the BIFMO project, which is based at the IHR.

BIFMO is an ongoing project, with separate but integrated research, resource-creation, public engagement and training strands. For further information please contact: http://bifmo.data.history.ac.uk/contact.