“Universal Museum”

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I was very excited last week to receive the first ARC of my next Laurel McKee book, Duchess of Sin (Anna’s story, out in December!). As you can see, Jane Austen was happy to see it as well. It’s always such a nice moment to see the book as–well, as a book. Even working on a story for months and months, living with the characters every day, doesn’t quite make it all seem real the way a shiny, pretty copy can. And what the heck–I’ll give away this ARC to one commenter today!

And like Janet I’m busy packing. I’m heading off to Denver for RomCon on Thursday, and then I’m going to the mountains in New Mexico for a few days to relax and finish this WIP. I think I have my clothes figured out, but not the books I’ll want to read. I’m still deciding on that. If you’re at RomCon come and say hi to me! I’ll be at the “Stripping the Heroine” panel on Friday at 2, and flitting around at various places the rest of the weekend. (I’ll post my schedule on my own blog tomorrow before I leave). I’m putting together a hand-out of favorite fashion history sites for the workshop, and if you have any suggestions send them on!

And tomorrow, July 7, marks the anniversary of the founding of the British Museum by an Act of Parliament in 1753! (Maybe–I actually found a couple different dates in my search, but since I feel like talking about it today this is when we’re marking the anniversary…). The origins of the British Museum were in the will of the physician and collector Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), who gathered more than 71,000 objects over his lifetime and he wanted to preserve them together after his death. (And I think I’m a pack-rat!). He left the collection to King George II for the nation in return to a payment of 20,000 pounds to his heirs.

This gift was accepted, and in 1753 an Act of Parliament established the British Museum, with Sloane’s collection as its nucleus. This starter collection was mostly books, manuscripts, natural specimens, antiquities, coins and medals, prints and drawings. (Today the museum numbers around 7 million objects). The Foundation Act added 2 other libraries to the collection, the Cottonian Library (assembled by Sir Robert Cotton and dating back to Elizabethan times) and the Harleian Library of the Earls of Oxford. The king donated the “Old Royal Library,” and with it the privilege of copyright receipt, in 1757, and these form the nucleus of the British Library (these early donations included such treasures as the only copy of the original Beowulf).

It was the first of its kind of museum, a “universal museum,” belonging neither to church or crown, freely open to the public and collecting everything. Today that includes the Viking Sutton Hoo treasure, the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon marbles, and many, many other treasures. It opened to the public in January 1759, housed first in the 17th century Montagu House in Bloomsbury (on the site of the current building). I think it would take a lifetime to fully explore everything the museum has to offer!

(The photo is Diane and our friend Julie on our Regency tour of England)

What is your favorite museum? What do you love most about it? What museum would you most like to visit you haven’t seen yet? (I would love to see the Prado in Madrid). And have you read any good books lately you would recommend I take on my trip???

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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Virginia C
12 years ago

Congratulations! Many have held a Jane Austen book, but few will see Ms. Austen holding one of their own books…and smiling : )

I was born and raised, and still reside, in a small railroad town in the beautiful mountains of Southwest VA. The Virginia Museum of Transportation is located in Roanoke, VA, less than an hour away from my home.

“The Roanoke Transportation Museum, originally formed as a partnership of the Norfolk & Western Railway and the City of Roanoke, first opened its doors in 1963 in Wasena Park along the Roanoke River. Although all modes of transportation were represented, the Museum focused on telling the story of Roanoke’s rich rail heritage.

In 1976, a private non-profit corporation was established to operate the Museum, and in 1983 the Museum was designated as the Official Transportation Museum of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Subsequently, the Museum was renamed the Virginia Museum of Transportation. The Museum’s collection includes approximately 2,500 objects, including more than 50 pieces of rolling stock—locomotives and other rail cars—including the largest collection of diesel locomotives in the South. The Museum has expanded its collection to include automotive, aviation, transit, and other artifacts and frequently exhibits loaned objects.

Today, the Virginia Museum of Transportation welcomes guests from across the nation and around the world. The Museum exists to preserve Virginia’s transportation history and to honor the workers whose talents created the transportation marvels in our collection. As a partner in the newly established “Virginia’s Rail Heritage Region,” it is our privilege to preserve their stories and accomplishments for future generations. (http://www.vmt.org/index.html)”

Jane Austen
12 years ago

I don’t have a favorite fashion website, but I do have a book as well as a factoid:My favorite fashion book: I Wonder What’s Under There? A pop-up book of underwear’s history.

My favorite factoid: I did a speech on the history of women’s underwear and in my research discovered that the bustle came into popularity because people realized you could have anal sex and you wouldn’t get pregnant. So you could cheat on your spouse and not get caught. So the butt became very sensuous. I had to say this in front of a group of 19 year-olds and a former Miss Alabama. Awesome.

Carolina S. Hernandez
Carolina S. Hernandez
12 years ago

Hi, Amanda & Laurel!
My favorite museum is by far the Louvre. The large-format pictures gallery is just amazing plus the architecture and decor of this former palace is a museum onto itself. I also love the Musee D’Orsay for the fantastic Impressionist collection and the Art Deco rooms.
I wish to visit the Prado (last saw it when I was a LOT younger and only remember the contrasts in Goya’s paintings between the court paintings, the realist paintings, and the “mad” ones. But I mostly long to visit the Tate – for the amazing Pre-Raphaelites and all things Turner! Unfortunately, where I live (Miami, Florida) we don’t have a lot of great, classical art. Although the yearly Art Basel Miami shows all the latest artists. To me, modern art is a far cry from the classics.

12 years ago

My favorite museum is the MET. I was just there yesterday for a bit at the American Woman exhibit which you would love. All those pretty dresses I swooned. There are so many around the world that I have not seen that I just don’t know so I’d like to travel and see what happens. Egypt would be wonderful.

Karen H in NC
12 years ago

I haven’t visited that many museums in my life, but to date, I think my favorite is Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. The museum has a wonderful collection of trains, carriages, early cars and planes as well as life depicted in America forward from the Industrial Revolution. The village shows life in American from early settlers through the Victorian era and includes replicas of some famous buildings & homes (Noah Webster’s home and Menlo Park…Edison’s lab).

Some of the books I’m reading right now are Sally MacKenzie’s Naked Nobility series…great fun! And I have Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn up to read when I’m done with the naked guys!

A good book I read recently was ‘The Belly Dancer’ by Deanna Cameron. To my knowledge this is the only book written by Ms. Cameron and well worth the time to read it! Great story about the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

12 years ago

My favorite museum is Ellis Island. Just the short ferry ride over gave me goosebumps, every display tightened my heart and my lungs, and I wakled away knowing more about my personal heritage as well as that of my country that I ever have from another museum.

I don’t know if the experience would be the same for a non-American, but I don’t think many people could go there and be unaffected, maybe not to the level I was (yes I cried, but I’m a crier 😉 but it was incredibly moving while also being informational.

Kim in Hawaii
12 years ago

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Kim in Hawaii
12 years ago

The military has given my family the opportunity to visit famous museums – the British Museum, the Louvre, the Vatican, and even the Hermitage! But my favorite museum is the The Egyptian Museum in Cairo,


It is stuffed with things to delight even the most serious Egyptologist. Although it is a bit dusty with seemingly inadequate security (simple locks on display cases), these only add to its charm.

I would guess that this museum, by far, lends out more items than any other museum in the world.

12 years ago

I’m lucky enough to have in my neck of the woods (Central Florida) the Ringling Museum of Art (yes, originally established by John Ringling, one of the five original circus kings of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus). The museum contains many paintings and sculptures by the Great Old Masters. The grounds and gardens are works of art themselves and all combined many lovely days have been passed.
I am currently planning a trip to England for spring next year and have at the top my list the British Museum and Apsley House.

12 years ago

I have never been to a museum. I have always wanted to go to the Smithsonian.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Oh, CrystalGB, I hope you get to visit the Smithsonian! Which is really a series of museums – Natural History, American History, National Gallery of Art, Science & Technology…we have a wealth of museums in Washington, DC.

But look how happy Julie and I are to be at the British Museum!! What a magical day that was, to walk in that museum and see the Elgin Marbles and so many other things (Napoleon’s Death Mask). It ties for my favorite museum with the MET in NYC (waving to Kwana!).
Another favorite is the National Gallery of Art – it is like an old friend I love to visit again and again.

What I’d like to see? The Louvre. And a slower trip through the Vatican – when I saw it before we were on a tour, rushing past great art!

Congrats on the beautiful ARC of Duchess of Sin, Miss Laurel McKee! Wow. We have to wait until December??? (Well, not one lucky commenter!)
How about reading Mary Blayney’s Courtesan’s Kiss? Whatever, have fun at RomCon!

Jane Austen
12 years ago

My favorite museum is The Frick in NYC. I love the Whistler’s and think it’s sad that he is really only know for the painting of his mother. I also loves how he calls his paintings fun things like “Harmony in Black and Grey”. I just LOVE it. Every painting at the Frick is a knock-out.

It’s contemporary but I just read The Icing on the Cupcake and not only do I want to bake thousands of cupcakes I really enjoyed the book and like it’s quirky unexpected ending. I’m looking for something that makes me feel that good again. Also it inspired me to make a special someone a pie that takes six hours for his birthday. He thinks it’s amazing and I think he’s amazing so it all works out.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Kwana, I’m so jealous you saw the American Woman exhibit!! I’ve seen some pics and it looks gorgeous. I love the Met so much, and I love the Louvre too (though I got very lost there!). They both have beautiful decorative arts galleries that have wonderful things, and seem to be very quiet.

I also love hearing about smaller, local museums wherever I go! There are some real gems out there

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Jane Austen–I will never look at a bustle gown in quite the same way again. LOL

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

And I have my RomCon schedule posted too! http://amandamccabe.blogspot.com/

If you’re there, come and say hi to me! I always dread going to new conferences, afraid I won’t know anyone

Jane Austen
12 years ago

Amanda, I know. It’s a little factoid that stays with you. As a side note the corset was used as an early way to abort unwanted pregnancies. You just kept tying it tighter until you miscarried. Women also had their floating ribs removed so they could tie their corsets tighter. There was one woman whose mother tied her corset so tight she died at her wedding breakfast because she couldn’t breath. The information out there is crazy and crazy scary.

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

Congrats, Amanda! Your book looks FABULOUS !!

I LOVE the British Museum! And the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

I would love to see the Soane and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

As for books to take along try Christine Wells Sweetest Little Sin and a great medieval cozy by Mel Starr A Corpse in St. Andrew’s Chapel – a really delightful read!

12 years ago

I love to visit museums and have been to many over the years: the British Museum, the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay (love those Impressionists), the Vatican, the Prado. The Smithsonian museums are some of my favorites. One summer while in college, I was an intern for CBO and spent many a lunch hour happily browsing in the National Gallery of Art. They had a special exhibit of French Impressionists that summer. DC is also home to the Phillips Collection which houses one of my favorite paintings by Renoir.

I’ve never been to NYC yet, but you can bet that the Met will be on my itinerary if I ever get there.

Interesting factoids, JA.

12 years ago

Congratulations! The cover is beautiful!

So far, I don’t have a favorite museum. However, I’m interning in the archives of one right now, so I’d say that my favorite one would probably be a huge genealogy museum with all sorts of documents I could get my hands dirty with as I sort them.

I don’t have any recommendations on reading since I’ve been too busy to read much today! Enjoy the convention and your vacation!