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Hélène Alexander, founder of the Fan Museum in Greenwich, discusses her new memoir ‘A Life of Ups and Downs’ with her editor, Russell Harris
Join us in conversation with Hélène Alexander, founder of the Fan Museum in Greenwich, and Russell Harris, Editor at The Institute of Ismaili Studies as we take a dive into Hélène’s new memoir, edited by Russell.
Born Hélène Adda into the famous Mosseri and Adda families, Hélène lived an enchanted childhood in Alexandria, Egypt. The book is full of anecdotes, ranging from an encounter with the Aga Khan (who wintered in Aswan where Hélène’s father had bought an island) to the family’s crucial role in building Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.
The memoir also details how Hélène, together with her late husband, Anthony Victor (“Dicky”) Alexander, CBE, established The Fan Museum, Greenwich in 1991 – an institution that has earned world renown.
Hélène Alexander, MBE was born in Alexandria, Egypt and educated at the Lycée Français d’Alexandrie. She holds a degree in History of Art from London University, has taught history of art, lectured extensively, and written numerous articles and books on the subject of fans. Hélène worked as a volunteer at the Victoria and Albert Museum for 13 years, before founding the The Fan Museum, where she has been Director for over 30 years. She is a leading authority on fans globally.
Russell Harris has an MA in Oriental Studies from Balliol College, Oxford. He works as an editor at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, where his duties include editing entries for the Encyclopaedia Islamica, writing and improving etymologies, picture research, proofing and consulting on translations of Arabic texts, most usually for the Rasāʾil Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ series. He is a contributor to the Dictionary of National Biography, The Routledge Encyclopedia of 19th Century Photography and The Oxford Companion to Food. He has written many articles on Middle Eastern art for various international journals and magazines and has published books on portraits of India’s ruling princes from the archives of the V&A Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. He has also curated exhibitions of historic photographs in institutions throughout Europe and the Middle East as well as being a published literary translator.