Based at the University of Oxford, the Jewish Country Houses Project takes country houses as a starting point for opening up a much broader intellectual agenda at the interface between Jewish history, art history and heritage culture. A distinctive feature of this AHRC-funded project is the way in which it brings scholars and heritage professionals together to map out a new heritage landscape. Before the pandemic we met at conferences which we organised in partnership with historic houses like Waddesdon Manor and Villa Kerylos: this proved a very powerful way of fostering personal and intellectual connections. Now, many events are held over Zoom, which allows us to create a more regular contact, one that renders the network meaningful in a different way.
Although the project originated in Britain, where the National Trust has been a key project partner, the project is conceived on a pan-European scale and the European dimension lies at the heart of much of what we do. On the one hand, we hope to establish “the Jewish Country House” as a focus for research, a site of European memory and a significant aspect of European Jewish heritage and material culture. On the other hand, we aim to break down the boundaries between different, nationally distinct heritage cultures and foster relevant pan-European relationships – because Jewish country houses cannot be interpreted or understood without reference to this broader European context.
All this means that for the Jewish Country Houses project, the AEPJ is a key partner, because the European Routes of Jewish Heritage provide a framework for telling a properly European story to an international audience – and drawing connections between properties that might otherwise not be thought about together. We are delighted that our Palaces, Villas and Country Houses route is already up-and-running – and attracting press interest. We are excited about future initiatives that will enable the route to keep evolving, and our network too.