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Elena Porter

MA work

The Creation of Value at Historic House Contents Auctions in England, 1919–1939

During the interwar period an unprecedented number of historic houses were sold or destroyed, and the collections of art and furnishings that they housed were dispersed. This dissertation examines the creation of value at house contents auctions held on the premises in interwar England. It focuses on the design of the sales, and the various ways in which the furnishings sold were presented, in order to access the values assigned to an object’s historic house provenance. 

The activities of auctioneers and antique dealers form the basis of this study. In assessing the influence of commercial networks on the ways in which a house’s contents were conceptualised, it combines the approach of a design historian with theoretical frameworks proposed by sociologists of markets. It therefore views the relationship between historic house furnishings and national heritage in the interwar period from a new perspective, focusing not only on the ‘declining aristocracy’, but on the commercial agents who reframed the contents of ‘ancestral homes’ for sale.


  • MA Degree


    School of Arts & Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2018

  • My MA dissertation focuses on the economic and cultural valuation of historic houses and their contents in interwar England. My future research, funded by an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between The University of Oxford and Historic Houses, will consider the role of independently-owned country houses in political and cultural discourse since 1950.
  • Degrees

  • BA History, University of Oxford, 2015
  • Experience

  • Intern, Sotheby's London, Decorative Arts Department, 2016; Interpretation Intern, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 2015; Curatorial Intern, Historic Annapolis, Maryland USA, 2014
  • Awards

  • Oliver Ford Trust Scholarship, 2016–2018; L H Martin Prize, Lincoln College, Oxford, 2015; Old Members' Scholarship, Lincoln College, Oxford, 2014–2015; Grimshaw Exhibition, Lincoln College, Oxford, 2013–2014