Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

A 6 million pound waste

September 18, 2010 · 1 Comment

Many blogs and class discussions have centered upon the use (and in some opinions, misuse) of public funds for the museums. No funds have been squandered quite as much as those used for the Sir John Soane museum. Outside the building there is a plaque proudly proclaiming that over 6 million pounds had been raised, primarily via the national lottery, to restore the illustrious home of the architect Sloan, most famous for designing the London Bank (I only found this out because it was one a small plaque inside).

taken from http://blog.londonconnection.com/?p=2799

Honestly, the museum is a huge waste of money. It is like colonial Williamsburg in the sense that it’s a preservation of an older house from a past time, except that it’s completely misrepresentative of early 19th century architecture because it’s too well-designed. Soane’s house is architecturally impressive – many roofs feature intricate designs and the different rooms have many different magnificent qualities. However, there is nothing explaining the various architectural concepts (at least that are clear enough to museum-goers, or just me). There are only few plaques explaining, or even defining, pieces of art or sculptures, which are arranged in hodge-podge and haphazard fashion. Yes, the architecture is impressive. However, it is truly ridiculous to spend 6 million pounds, of public money, to preserve and restore a bit of tiny, though spectacular architecture.

The British Museum, though certainly more expensive, is far more educative than the Soane museum. It not only contains incredible items from world history – it organizes and explains them, giving them far greater meaning then random objects that look cool (or don’t). Because it serves a purpose, it is worth the public money required to fashion such an institution.

Clearly, the Soane Museum best exemplifies the reverse robin-hood syndrome (stealing from the poor, giving to the rich, a common criticism of the publicly-funded museums) because it’s so obscure and not educative that it really serves no purpose to the poor but does cater to rich architecture fanatics and people who already know enough about artifacts and art that they don’t necessarily need plaques explaining them.

There are simply too many better uses for 6 million pounds, the public sponsorship of the Soane museum is, in my opinion, un-sound. What do I make of this then? I think the preservation and sponsorship of the Soane museum highlights England’s obsession with its past, and more specifically, a superficial past. Just as the Imperial war museum champions Britain’s involvement in WW II and skirts over that whole Africa colonialism bit, the Soane museum makes late 19th and early 20th century Britain look classy, as this is a model house from that time. It also simply echoes what we’ve seen before: Britain loves its past, and making it look good.

Categories: 2010 ChristopherB · Museums
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1 response so far ↓

  •   guya // Sep 18th 2010 at 16:47

    I found the Soane Museum completely uninterested in educating visitors into the place. There were no maps, no plaques, and no guides explaining anything. You had to figure it out as you went along.

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