Enlightenment architectures: The reconstruction of Sir Hans Sloane’s cabinets of ‘Miscellanies’
By Lucy Stagg, on 9 December 2020
UCLDH Director, Dr Julianne Nyhan and Dr Kim Sloan, Francis Finlay Curator of the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum, have recently had an article published by the OUP Journal of the History of Collections. The article is based on their work undertaken as part of the Leverhulme Trust-funded research project, Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s Catalogues of his Collections (2016–19), a collaboration between the British Museum and University College London.
Focusing on Sir Hans Sloane’s catalogue of ‘Miscellanies’, now in the British Museum, this paper asks firstly how Sloane described objects and secondly whether the original contents of the cabinets can be reconstructed from his catalogue. Drawing on a sustained, digitally augmented analysis – the first of its kind – of Sloane’s catalogues, we respond to these questions and offer an initial analysis of the contents of the cabinets that held the miscellaneous objects at Sloane’s manor house in Chelsea. Knowledge of how and why Sloane catalogued this part of his collection has hitherto remained underdeveloped. We argue that his focus on preservation and documentation in his cataloguing did not preclude a research role, but rather was founded on immersive participation.