It seems appropriate for a holiday period to talk about a place I have just visited while on holiday: the lovely and recently expanded Holburne Museum in Bath. There are many reasons to enjoy the museum, but I was particularly interested after having recently heard their Director talk about the role archive documents had played in creating one of the new displays.
The core of the Holburne Museum’s collection was amassed by the private collector Sir Thomas Holburne (1793-1874). He kept this extraordinary mixture of furniture, ornaments, paintings, porcelain and much more in a Bath townhouse where he lived with his sisters. It must have been a bewilderingly rich and crowded experience to visit the Holburnes, given the size of their collections relative to the size of even a gracious townhouse! One area of the redisplay recreates just a small part of this richness, inspired by a detailed inventory of the town house. The inventory is also available in audio for museum visitors, who can listen in growing amazement, as I did, to the list of tables, chairs, knick-knacks, sideboards, fire-irons, netsuke, figurines and more which occupied just one room in the Holburnes’ house.