Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich


September 8, 2009 · 1 Comment


Jack Sturges (American author and photographer) once said that “The world is shrinking as we see more and more of it in the media, and the more we see of the world, the smaller we are, the more aware we are of how insignificant any one of us is.” This is how I felt today at The Sir John Soane’s Museum, as if the world had shrunk into one house (a work of art) and I was there, insignificant.

I was surprised to arrive at the museum and realize that it used to be someone’s home, self constructed and designed. While waiting in line to enter I attempted to make friends with the doorman, and so I asked him to tell me a little bit about Sir John, who he was and what the museum was about. He responded by saying: “Well why are you here then? Why did you come to a museum that you knew nothing of, you should have done your research.” Him and I were off to a bad start. I expected him to enthusiastically respond, after all, I knew the basics and thought he could have shared a few things about the museum I didn’t know. I forgave him for making me feel stupid at that moment, but I guess he had a good point, I should have done my research. He did tell me about the importance of sunlight to Sir John and how he designed the house to have as much sunlight as possible entering in every room; I was now on the look out for the infamous windows.

The house was lit up with sunlight. Today was a sunny day and I was able to appreciate the house’s illuminates passageways and sculptures in the various rooms. His collection of artwork, as well as sculptures and treasures was breath taking. For someone to design such a marvelous home, and to spend their life collecting such amazing works is truly admirable. He had a piece of the world in different corners of his home and in any given room/space one can experience Egypt, Rome, Britain and even the transgression of time through paintings or within the pages of Soane’s 6,857 books.

In one of the rooms filled with paintings, one of the museum’s curators opened up the wall-sized doors where suddenly more paintings became visible to our eyes. There, were the paintings of buildings Sir John had designed, for he was a prominent architect, including sketches of the house itself and a statue of a women (whose name I cannot recall). Hidden treasures.

To be inspired to build such a home, as well as to collect such magnificent and priceless pieces of art is the kind of inspiration I seek. The one that goes beyond boundaries to further personal growth while engaging the outside world. Although Sir John Soane lived from 1753 to 1837 his life, his collections and his home will live on as an example to the rest of us of a rich life. So that one day we can rest knowing that we have completed our lives significantly.

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1 response so far ↓

  •   russella // Sep 9th 2009 at 05:12

    That sounds amazing, what a spectacular find. I know what you mean about the doorman though: i still haven’t figured out the difference between british humor and mockery.

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