Decolonising The Buddhist Displays at Chiddingstone Castle, Kent

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In 1955 art dealer Denys Eyre Bower (1905-1977) bought Chiddingstone Castle, Kent, to house his collection of art and artefacts and make it accessible to the public. This collection was organised around four themes, one of which was Buddhism. Eyre Bower described himself as a Buddhist and counted Christmas Humphreys among his friends. His collection was very much a labour of love and when he died a trust was set up to care for the Castle and collection and keep both open to the public.
However, the way the Buddhist artefacts were displayed understandably reflected certain mid-20th century ideas about Buddhism. It tended to conflate disparate traditions, exoticise items, or display items in less than appropriate settings or in a ‘cabinet or curiosities’ manner. By osmosis misleading ideas about Buddhist thought, practice, and cultures would easily diffuse into the public understanding of Buddhism.
In line with best practice in museology, the curator set about to address this issue through a combination of focus groups with Buddhists and drawing on academic expertise, a process which I assisted with. In my paper I reflect on this process, and the line negotiated between presenting exhibits accurately, sensitively, and engagingly to the public while acknowledging the character of Denys Eyre Bower and the place of him and those like him in the story of Buddhism and Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventBASR Annual Conference: Religion and Public Engagement - OU , Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Aug 20221 Sept 2022


ConferenceBASR Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityMilton Keynes
Internet address


  • decolonial practice
  • Buddhist Studies
  • Museum education
  • Tibetan Buddhism


Dive into the research topics of 'Decolonising The Buddhist Displays at Chiddingstone Castle, Kent'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this