Category: Teaching

How to Build a Universal Collection, or Nicknackatory

best broker forex in us Posted on August 20, 2014 by - Collecting, Early Modern History, Hans Sloane, Museums, Reconstructing Sloane, Teaching, Travel, Undergraduate Research

By James Hawkes

Sloane and me at the British Museum.

piattaforma per operazioni binarie bonus Sloane and I at the British Museum.

http://secon.se/secon-titanium/feed/ The sheer immensity of Sloane’s collection poses a daunting challenge for the researcher, especially given its present division among different institutions. It might be useful to consider Sloane’s collection alongside smaller and more manageable (not to mention intact!) ones.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom as part of a senior-undergraduate course offered by the University of Saskatchewan. Coins in Early Modern Collections of Curiosities was a hands-on study of coins in two early modern cabinets of curiosities: John Bargrave’s seventeenth-century collection (Canterbury Cathedral) and William Constable late 18th century cabinet of curiosities  (Burton Constable).

forex otomatik al sat sistemleri Although Sloane’s numismatic collection has physically endured better than, say, his beloved butterflies, we don’t have many details about this part of the collection. The catalogues describing Sloane’s coins disappeared during the Second World War.  But by studying other complete (if comparatively small) early modern collections of coins, gives insight into Sloane’s goals and influences.

Cabinets of Curiosities were intended to represent the whole of Creation in microcosm, something far easier to discern with intact collections. In our age of narrow specialisation, Sloane’s collection has been divvied up so thoroughly between the British Library, the British Museumn, and the Natural History Museum, that the universalising ambition of Sloane can be hard to see. Smaller cabinets also provide an appreciation for how the sheer size of Sloane’s collection made it so exceptional.

No collector could bear to look at himself in the mirror without at least one unicorn horn in his collection (from Burton Constable)

buy discount tastylia (tadalafil) online No collector could bear to look at himself in the mirror without at least one unicorn horn in his collection (from Burton Constable)

Cheap 20 MG Tastylia Tadalafil Oral StripsOrder Tastylia Oral Strip Online So, how do you go about building a universal collection?

The world is filled with strange and wondrous objects and if you are as serious about building a microcosm of it as Sloane was, then you’ll need to get your hands on some pretty weird artefacts. These can range from simple oddities like a “rope snapped by a strong man,” to an alicorn or even a horn from a woman’s head. 

http://venturepluz.com/?riod=conto-trading-opzioni-digitali&9ba=ea Not all of Sloane’s contemporaries were enthusiastic about his penchant for collecting almost anything that fell into his hands. As Horace Walpole, one of the trustees Sloane appointed to posthumously oversee his collection said:

You will scarce guess how I employ my time; chiefly at present in the guardianship of embryos and cockleshells. Sir hans [sic] Sloane is dead, and has made me one of the trustees to his museum. . . . He valued it at fourscore thousand; and so would any body who loves hippopotamuses, sharks with one ear, and spiders as big as geese!

Sir Charles Hanbury Williams also expressed similar sentiments about the value of Sloane’s collecting in an ironic ode on the subject. In this poem he claimed that he was acquiring for Sloane’s “nicknackatory”  such fantastic curiosities as Dido’s sword, Eve’s snakeskin, Adam’s fig-leaf, Noah’s stuffed pigeon, a sultry glance from Cleopatra and a few “strains of Cicero’s eloquence.” He even suggested that Sloane’s inability to distinguish fact from fiction extended  to his medical practice… Sloane has acquired such invaluable medicine as: [1]

The stone whereby Goliath died, Which cures the head-ache, well apply’d.

It is certainly worth noting that Sloane’s medicine chest contained some items that we would now think of as pretty odd, such as holding bezoars (a mass from a goat’s intestines) as sovereign against poison.

Many major English museums originated–like the British Museum–in personal cabinets of curiosities, but these were so integrated with other collections that the institutions are uncertain about the provenance of a number of the artefacts in their care. For historians, this tendency to merge collections rather than to preserve them in pristine isolation (as the British Library treats stamp collections) may seem unfortunate.

However, this disregard of previous collectors and focus on the artefacts themselves was also the general practice of Sloane and his contemporaries. For instance, Elias Ashmole’s collection (which became the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford) was largely grounded in the Ark of the Tradescants. Sloane himself was (in)famous for how much of his incomparable collection was built on the wholesale acquisition of the collections of others.

Just as Sloane was attempting to present the world in microcosm, the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum can be seen as an attempt to represent Sloane’s collection in microcosm. Our class visit to the gallery was an opportunity to see items from Sloane’s collection, with its strange juxtaposition of naturalia and classicism. This gives a small taste of the experience that Sloane’s contemporaries might have had when visiting his in Chelsea so many centuries ago. It is a powerful moment to actually see the physical objects of centuries ago, rather than merely to read about them or look at pictures. The heady experience of actually seeing the objects is of course why–both in Sloane’s time and today–museums are so popular. Cliche but true, they make history come to life!

A Microcosm of a Microcosm, from the Enlightenment Gallery of the British Museum

A Microcosm of a Microcosm, from the Enlightenment Gallery of the British Museum

[1] Barbara M. Benedict, “Collecting Trouble: Sir Hans Sloane’s Literary Reputation in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Eighteenth Century Life, 36, 2 (2012), 120, 126-128.

Shark Bits and Sloane Bobs

Sharktopus DVD cover. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Sharktopus DVD cover. Source: Wikipedia Commons, via Syfy.

It’s been an eventful couple months, which is why this blog has been a bit neglected. In case you’re wondering why: I had a baby in mid-June–a little earlier than expected!

The time has been passing in a blur of wonder and delight… and hilariously awful B-movies about sharks. Thank you to the Canadian Space channel for this maternity leave diversion. I’d just like to say that two Sharktopus death scenes were worth the price of my cable subscription for the month: the tentacle death tickle and a deadly pirouette.

The Sloane Project itself continues apace. I have been supervising a great team of Research Assistants this summer. (You can read a bit about them here.) We’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes work on the Sir Hans Sloane’s Correspondence Online database. Some of the RAs have also been preparing some blog posts that will appear over the next couple months, starting next week.

Sadly, we have not come across any references to sharks in the Sloane Letters so far.

Sloane, A Camden Character

By Kim Biddulph

“I will like history more.” This was the response from one of the schoolchildren I worked with on a project about Sir Hans Sloane. He had been asked how the project would change what he will do in the future. This boy had been difficult to engage and had struggled with reading primary sources. He had done his own thing when we were doing designing activities, and he didn’t even want to go to the celebration event at the end of the project. But it meant a lot when I read his feedback, and that is what he said. It made my day.

I highlighted this response in the evaluation report I sent to the UK Heritage Lottery Fund, which had provided the money for the project. Healing Histories took place over the academic year 2011-12 and, as project coordinator, I was based in the London Borough of Camden‘s School Improvement Consultancy Service. I worked with students from two secondary (high) schools on a debating project about herbal medicine and with another primary (elementary) school class on designing and planting a physic garden in Bloomsbury Square.

The physic garden in Bloomsbury Square.

But the most challenging and exciting part of the project was to get a class of twenty-four Year 5 pupils (aged 9-10) to research, write and design a trail leaflet about Sloane in Bloomsbury.

St Georges Bloomsbury with a statue of George I on top of the steeple.

Sloane lived at 3 and 4 Bloomsbury Place (then Great Russell Street) from about 1695 to 1742, and his collection was, of course, the basis of the British Museum. Through their research (prepared in advance by a freelance historian, Katie Potter), the kids found out that the Duke of Bedford had a house north of Bloomsbury Square and that there had been a market south of Bloomsbury Square when Sloane lived there. They also found out that he had been a vestryman at St George’s Bloomsbury, which was a new church, opened in 1731.

We also had a professional writer, Dr Michael McMillan, who helped the kids get into the research through poetry and drama. The pupils really enjoyed dramatising major events in Sloane’s life, like his trip to Jamaica and meeting the ex-pirate Henry Morgan, and the attempted arson attack and burglary at his house in 1700. Michael also challenged them to do the best writing they’d ever done. It really worked. They wrote a day in the life of Hans Sloane as he went for a walk around his local area.

The final trail as researched written and designed by 10 year olds.

Then they designed the leaflet itself, with the help of Sav Kyriacou of digital:works. I found some pictures of Georgian interiors for them to use as a guide to creating a colour swatch for the leaflet, and we did a very basic and fun cut and stick activity with all the elements we needed on the trail.

The trail was launched at a great day in Bloomsbury Square, and the Mayor of Camden attended, as well as Sir Hans Sloane himself (well, an actor)! The pupils had prepared part of the trail as a walking tour and gave it to pupils from another school. Then, as one final treat, I had organised for them to go into 4 Bloomsbury Place, one of Sloane’s houses. He had originally moved into number 3, but as his collection grew he needed more space so leased the house next door as well. Various businesses are now housed in that same building and two of them let us look around, including Prestel Publishing, who gave the pupils access to the roof!

We found so many sources and stories for the children to work with, including Old Bailey records of the attempted burglary and other crimes in the area, vestry records at St George’s Bloomsbury, and accounts of Handel leaving a buttered muffin on one of Sloane’s priceless manuscripts. There were all of his c.80,000 collected objects in the British Museum, British Library and Natural History Museum to look through, too. Sadly, we didn’t find the correspondence, which now fills me with regret!

The pupils got a lot out of the project, though. They looked at an array of historical sources, which the teacher has packaged up to use as a topic with subsequent year groups; they became amazingly confident in their writing; they contributed something to their local area; and their hard work was rightly celebrated.

There was something special about Hans Sloane that kept their interest. He led a fascinating life at a fascinating time in history, meeting pirates, Samuel Pepys, Handel, Linnaeus, and kings and queens. He was a high-achiever from a relatively modest background–and William Stukeley described him as not being able to speak in public at all. He had a tangible impact on the local area, with the British Museum standing as a testament to his collecting zeal. He popularised milk chocolate and he had a stuffed giraffe in his living room (both winners with kids).

Sign on the pavement outside the British Museum during the Olympics.

I have moved on to pastures new, but later this term the pupils who were involved in this project will do a series of talks at neighbouring schools to tell their peers what they have done and what they found out. Copies of the trail have been sent to every Camden school with ideas for teachers to incorporate them into their history or English classes, and the trail is being given out at the British Museum. So if you’re in London and you get a chance, go to the information desk in the Great Court and ask for a copy, then take a stroll round eighteenth century Bloomsbury through the eyes of Sir Hans Sloane. Until then, you can download the trail from the British Museum website.

Kim Biddulph trained as an archaeologist and now works as a museum educator. She coordinated two projects for the London Borough of Camden to engage children and young people with the heritage of Camden, an area of central and north London. Healing Histories was the second of those projects, funded through the UK National Lottery and it aimed to explore the heritage of Sloane, who lived in the borough for over 40 years. Kim also blogs at Archaeotext

Image Credits: Kim Biddulph