Day 9 in England- The British Museum and the Wallace Collection

We began our day with a trip to the British Museum. We were greeted by sweeping glass ceilings and visitors weaving around each other on their way to see mummies and architectural treasures. We headed over to the Enlightenment Gallery, where we met Dr. Kim Sloan, Curator of British Drawings and Watercolors before 1880 and the Francis Finlay Curator of the Enlightenment Gallery.

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Dr. Sloan guided us through the Enlightenment Gallery, where she explained how the space was evaluated and set-up for the education and enjoyment of the public.

She shared a fascinating glimpse into how decisions were made for the Gallery, ranging from heating to wall text to the arrangement of cases. This included showing us how natural and man-made objects surround visitors, sometimes with minimal interpretation to represent collecting as a method of exploring. She discussed how objects were arranged to convey ideas about how people approached their material worlds in the past, and how these ideas are understood in the present.

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Following the tour, we had some free time to wander the museum and surrounding area, some of us headed directly for the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon sculptures, others explored nearby cafes and art supply shops.

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Following a quick walk to Manchester Square, we reached the Wallace Collection, which holds eighteenth-century treasures of fine and decorative arts. Some of us rested a little while we waited for our next tour to begin.

London Blog 4We were greeted by curator Dr. Helen Jacobsen, Head of the Curatorial Team, with curatorial responsibility of eighteenth-century French decorative arts. She gave us a tour of the library building and an introduction to the collectors who assembled the Wallace Collection’s objects. We were brought through a series of stunning rooms full of lavish paintings and furniture, including tables by André-Charles Boulle, guided centerpieces, and sparkling lighting fixtures.

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We particularly appreciated the opportunity to see some of the extraordinary craftsmanship held behind the doors and inside the drawers of a couple of selected pieces.

London Blog 7After our tour of the collection, we were welcomed by Jürgen Huber, Senior Furniture Conservator, to the Furniture Conservation lab. He discussed conservation decisions at the Wallace Collection and talked us through how he and his team were considering and treating a mysterious table.

London Blog 8London Blog 9We passed around pieces of tortoise shell to better appreciate the materials that went into making the phenomenally intricate Boulle pieces.

London Blog 10Following our time in the conservation workshops, we had the evening free to eat dinner and sight-see. While we mostly split off in different directions, some of us finished the evening with a show in the West End.

The day was rich in lessons about the collection and display of objects, which we would think about as we continued to visit museums in London and Bath.

By Emily Pazar, WPAMC class of 2016



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