17th century magic and the supernatural

What treasures lie hidden in post-medieval buildings? Why conceal a shoe? A bottle? What magical protection did they bring the inhabitants?

Concealed and Revealed is a project delivered by Senior Lecturer in History and Folklore, Ceri Davies and colleagues from Herts, collaborating with three museum partners, two artists, volunteers, and the public. It blended historical, archaeological, and ethnographic approaches to understanding the deliberately deposited objects found in post-medieval buildings, from their concealment to their uncovering and curation, contributing to our understanding of the living history of domestic wellbeing, and the material culture of the magical protection of homes over the last three centuries.

The project successfully led to four strands of impact, including: museum exhibitions, learning experiences for the masses which influenced creative practice, and further engagement with the research through numerous public talks, social media, and coverage in a wide range of national and local media.

The biggest impact came from the generation of new museum and gallery audiences, with the Ashmolean Museum’s The Spellbound Exhibition breaking new ground in terms of the nature of visitors. More first-time visitors attended the Ashmolean for Spellbound than for any previous exhibition. 35% of visitors were in the key, challenging 25-34 age bracket – double their exhibition norm. Spellbound was also shortlisted for ‘Marketing Campaign of the Year’ at the Museums and Heritage Awards.

Prof Owen Davies
Dr Ceri Houlbrook
Dr Ciara Meehan