On 14–17 September 2007 the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology held its annual conference in Exeter and Taunton. Entitled ‘West Country Households, 1500–1700’, the event brought together almost 200 people, including specialists in vernacular architecture, interior decoration, textiles, furniture history, the analysis of inventories, household accounts, food history, and metal, glass and ceramic artefacts. Alongside independent researchers, academics from several disciplines and members of archaeological units were staff from architects' practices, museums, conservation studios and the antiques trade. Colleagues from Canada, France, Portugal and the USA added an international flavour to the occasion. The gathering of people with so many different interests in one place was perhaps one of the most useful functions of the conference – one which the Society was especially well suited to perform, since it has long sought to foster a wide range of archaeological approaches to the entire post-medieval period, and its Journal has published work in many of the specific fields represented at the conference.
In addition to the lecture sessions, the conference provided delegates with opportunities to inspect houses which had been the subject of recent building survey in Exeter and Topsham. We also had a rare opportunity to handle and discuss West Country artefacts. At the Somerset County Museum in Taunton we were able to examine two major new acquisitions: the Kenneth J. Barton Collection of European vernacular ceramics, and the Roderick and Valentine Butler collection of cast domestic metalware (cauldrons, skillets, etc.) – the former the subject of an introductory paper in our Journal, the latter published in an excellent catalogue by Roderick Butler and Christopher Green. For both, the people who had formed these collections were present, adding greatly to the interest of the meeting by explaining their motivations in assembling these major new resources for the researcher.
Towards the close of the conference, the combined efforts of staff from Exeter Archaeology, Exeter City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, the Royal Cornwall Museum and the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, together with members of the Plymouth Archaeological Society, assembled in Exeter the largest series of ceramics from south-western sites which has been brought together for more than 30 years, including major samples of the spectacular collections of imports from Plymouth and many of the key published assemblages from Exeter.
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