Contemplating Hope

Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth

May 2021-April 2022, May 2025-April 2026

Photography credit Jerry Hardman-Jones, copyright Bronte Parsonage Museum

Anne and Emily Brontë started writing small diary papers in 1834. Doing so was an act of hope for the two sisters. They reflected on their past, documented their present and imagined their future. They recorded what was happening in their lives and in the world around them on small scraps of paper which they folded up and placed in a tin box, alongside their haberdashery items, for safekeeping. Every four years, Anne and Emily would open the box and revisit what they had written before beginning another diary paper. 

This installation was inspired by the hope that Anne and Emily found amongst the many hardships of their lives. The Haworth they grew up in was full of poverty and illness. They dealt with the loss of their mother and siblings. Still they dreamt of futures full of ambition and possibility. 

Recent times have been difficult for so many of us. The pandemic has affected all of our lives and we have been faced with new challenges. We have witnessed racism and injustice, inequality and poverty, and are confronted with a climate emergency threatening our planet. In the midst of these difficulties, there have been, and continue to be, moments of hope and examples of individuals and communities coming together, giving us all something to hold on to and look forward to. 

The installation Contemplating Hope consists of twelve ceramic vessels, each decorated with a motif referencing each of the haberdashery items kept in Anne and Emily's original tin box. We are inviting visitors to the museum to take a moment to think about their present, and their hopes for the future. These thoughts may be personal or global, achievable or epic, for tomorrow or for a broader future. We ask that these reflections are written down on a diary paper, fold it up, and place it in the ceramic vessel. 

In four years time we will use the bespoke bronze key to crack open each ceramic vessel, revealing the thoughts and hopes of the museum visitors, to be exhibited alongside Anne and Emily's original diary papers.

The making of the vessels

Project made possible with support from: