Bury Knowle Park and Library, Headington, Oxford. 2019

Etheldreda Laing (1872-1960) was an artist and pioneer colour photographer who lived in Bury Knowle House from 1899 to 1923 with her husband Charles Miskin Laing and two daughters, Janet and Iris. When photographic autochrome plates became available to buy in 1907, Etheldreda Laing was an early adopter of colour photography. The photographs that she took at Bury Knowle House are held as part of the Science Museum Group’s collection. Bury Knowle House is now Headington public library and the garden is a public park.

OB1 LIVE surveyed 150 users of the park and library, finding that 90% had not heard of Etheldreda Laing or seen her work. They took portrait photographs of local people in the park, choosing similar places and poses to those in Etheldreda Laing’s work. These were displayed in the Library as part of an exhibition that included Etheldreda Laing’s work. We believe that this is the first time that her work has been displayed to the public in the Library or neighbourhood.

This live project took the form of a public consultation, engagement and exhibition. This activity helped the students to understand the place, the people and their needs. This informed a theoretical project to design an Interpretation Centre for Etheldreda Laing.

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