Dr Mariam Rosser-Owen, Osma Student ‘99–00, head curator of the Arab World collections at the V&A, traces with a specialist eye the collection at the Instituto and her research there, followed by an expert roundtable on the future of the Studentship.
Dr Mariam Rosser-Owen, Osma Student ‘99–00, curates one of the most significant collections of Spanish Islamic art outside Spain, the Arab World collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and has published widely on the subject.
Of her time in Madrid she said, ‘It was a truly magical year and experience and I have clear memories of sitting in that wonderful library in the Instituto browsing books and archives, even objects! They just brought me the little 10th-century Cordoban ivory casket to study at my desk!’ ‘That was a truly special experience; literally touching the history I was studying […] You couldn’t get closer to the Omayad court’.
She curated an exhibition, held at the V&A and later at the Alhambra in Granada, on the influential nineteenth-century design theorist Owen Jones’s study of, and inspiration from, the Alhambra, of which Osma was the first president of the Board of Trustees.
She concluded her talk at the de Osma Centenary commemoration with the following remark: ‘I’m exceedingly grateful to have been a recipient of the de Osma Studentship. I think my career to date has shown that the experiences there twenty years ago were important, formative, and continue to bear fruit. And I hope the Studentship is able to continue for another 100 years and give many more students access to this fantastic collection and library, and the unique experiences that we have all benefited from. Thank you, don Guillermo.’
The centenary was crowned by a roundtable discussion on the future of the Osma Studentship at Oxford. Carole Souter, Master of St Cross College, former Chief Executive of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Trustee of Historic Royal Palaces, was joined by Xenia Elsaesser, Osma Student 2009–2010 and cultural strategist based in Berlin, and Dr Miriam Alí de Unzaga, Osma Student 2000–2001 and 2001–2002, anthropologist currently working with the head curator of the Instituto, Cristina Partearroyo, on the publication of the Instituto’s textile collection.
The roundtable culminated in a heartfelt appeal to create an alumni network for the Osma Studentship, so that intergenerational connections can continue to proliferate.