Journal Article

Shaping, collecting and displaying medicine and architecture

Ellen Adams

in Journal of the History of Collections

Volume 25, issue 1, pages 59-75
Published in print March 2013 | ISSN: 0954-6650
Published online January 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-8564 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhr031
Shaping, collecting and displaying medicine and architecture

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Collections played a critical role as teaching tools for particular disciplinary doctrines in Enlightenment Britain, including medicine and architecture. The two protagonists examined here are the architect Sir John Soane and surgeon John Hunter, whose museums now face one another across Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London. Skeletons, body parts and artistic models illustrated and explained the workings of the body, while architectural pieces and casts, together with interior design and furnishings, supplied inspiration for architects. These collections dissect, respectively, bodies and buildings in order to build new schools of thought. Hunter’s and Soane’s original house museums were both designed to promote particular disciplinary practices and to impress polite society, through various kinds of representations and methods. They differ, however, in the use of the classical tradition. Hunter strode forwards, leaving this legacy behind, while Soane stood Janus-like, interweaving past and present into a multi-layered narrative.

Journal Article.  10276 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections ; History of Art ; Social and Cultural History

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