“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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