Antiquarians on display at the Royal Academy of Arts

[h/t to Cliopatria for noting these]

Ferdinand Mount, in “The Thinginess of History,” (TLS, 10/10/07) provides a tantalizing review of an RAA exhibit, “Making History: Antiquarians in Britain 1707-2007” that I am unlikely ever to see.    Instead, I will have to content myself with Mount’s review and the gift-shop souvenir book, which will only set me back 22 pounds in soft cover.  That’s not as much thinginess as I would have liked.  And is it ever as satisfying to read about antiquarians as it is to examine the collections that they themselves assembled?  Their lives and their thoughts are on display on those shelves, and we are supposed to know it, a spectatorial experience very different from the ordinary museum walk-through.  Even in an exhibition as careful as this, the routinized contact with the past enforced by museum culture has almost entirely wiped out our understanding of this oddly affectionate, private, proprietary attitude towards “antiquity” and its “remains.”

DM

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