Wunderkammer :: The John Soane's Museum's Fictional Museum
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“This labyrinth stuffed full of fragments is the most tasteless arrangement that can be seen; it has the same kind of perplexing and oppressive effect on the spectator as if the whole stock of an old-clothes-dealer had been squeezed into a doll’s house.”Whenever I have visited John Soane’s Museum in London, I have felt like I have returned to my earliest childhood. It isn’t only that the museum houses a collection that is simply a tidied up version of the circumstances that Soane lived with, that his home is an exhaustive compendium of his interests and obsessions. Certainly his presence is everywhere, like a distant but charming parent expected home imminently. Or that his museum is the last of the great Wunderkammern, a relict in the infancy of Modernism. It is that it smells, sounds, looks and tastes of the houses of my earliest childhood, every surface alive with statuary and icons, every corner packed with meaning, every nook hiding secrets.
Adolf Michaelis, Ancient Marbles of Great Britain,1882
Of course the places that I lived in as a child were much bigger.
Whilst everyone knows the Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, not so many are aware of its literary doppelganger, a museum of words; recollections, homages, discoveries and fantasies contributed by the secret community of Soane’s aficionados.
This shadow museum grew from Bernard Cohen’s* stint as museum guidebook writer in 2002. These guidebook are a journey in themselves. For my money, the most useful and pertinent to my own studies is his ‘Room by Room Guide to Sir John Soane's Natural History Museum’ (it's a pdf) >>
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* Yes, it IS the same Cohen who showed such a refined understanding of the pleasures of dust in an earlier MoD exhibit.