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28NADFAS REVIEW / WINTER 2011www.nadfas.org.ukEAST INDIA COMPANY

Unlockingthe pastIn keeping with Patricia Fay's vision to help conserve thegreat country homes of Britain, NADFAS-accredited lecturerDr Helen Cliffordis calling on members to assist in a newresearch project, 'The East India Company at Home 1757-1857', to uncover the history behind their Asian antiquitiesWhen Patricia Fay foundedNADFAS in the late 1960s, shehad from the start a clear ideaof the potential its membersrepresented. "In 50 years' time," sheannounced in 1967, "we shall be judgednot by our number of members andlecturers, but by what we have achievedin the houses and museums." Two yearslater, in 1969, the NADFAS founderemphasised that "it is important to seethat members are given moreopportunity to 'do' rather than 'look'".The importance of this active ratherthan passive aspect of NADFAS hasnowhere been proved more than withinthe country homes of Britain. In the early1970s when these houses were underthreat, Patricia Fay made theirconservation another of her great andvisionary crusades. Today, thousands ofHeritage Volunteers clean, conserve,research and conduct tours in ourcountry houses, helping preserve thesetreasure stores of objects and archives.Yet like the collective and individualknowledge accumulated by the growingnumber of family historians, that of theHeritage Volunteers has, to a largeextent, not been recognised or utilisedby academics. Circulating largely outsidescholarly circles, this body of knowledgehas the potential to enrich understandingof British country houses as sites ofsocial, cultural, economic and politicalcohesion and conflict. A new Leverhulme Trust-funded research project, 'The East India Company www.nadfas.org.ukNADFAS REVIEW / WINTER 201129Left:Detail froma Chinesepainting showingseveral stages oftea productionand packing in CantonEAST INDIA COMPANYPhoto: Martyn Gregory Gallery, London