The Holburne Museum and Sir John Soane’s Museum display the creativity behind collecting

The Holburne Museum and Sir John Soane’s Museum display the creativity behind collecting

A tidy mind

I can’t stand clutter and the only thing I collect is an industrial supply of chocolate (just in case). Sadly, I live with people who like to hold onto things. And I wonder, is it a sign of a disordered mind that you like to have your environment orderly, or is a disordered environment the product of a disordered mind? Answers on a postcard please…

As much as I hate lots of stuff in my own home, I love going into other homes where there is a lot to look at. As long as I don’t have to look after it, I am happy to see as many objects as possible, ideally arranged beautifully.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

First up, I have to wax lyrical about the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. This is the former house of 19th-century architect Sir John Soane. Designed by Soane, it is bursting at the seams with his collection of works of art, sculptures, furniture and generally interesting bits of stuff.

For me, one of the most outstanding parts of the museum is the Crypt and Speculchral Chamber in the basement, where there is the sarcophagus of Seti 1, one of the most important surviving Egyptian antiquities in the world (apparently). I am not sure whether I should admire someone obtaining incredible objects from around the globe, but Soane’s extensive collection of Roman urns and vases in the Catacombs, also in the basement, is something to behold. Whether or not with awe, or guilt at our history of raiding other cultures, is up to you. Probably best not to mention the Elgin Marbles at this point.

The Holburne Museum

My other recent trip to a beautiful old building stuffed to its rafters with glorious artefacts was to the Holburne Museum in Bath. I went there to see the Grayson Perry exhibition, which is amazing by the way, but I have already gone on enough about him on these pages.

I was thrilled to see that the museum had other collections to admire. I was blown away by the ceramics, paintings, sculptures and general knick-knacks gathered by Sir William Holburne (1793–1874) who left the navy after inheriting the family title and a modest fortune to go on an 18-month Grand Tour of Europe, visiting Italy, the Alps and the Netherlands. One of the reasons why these collections are such a feast for the eyes, is because they are so beautifully curated and laid out. For example, precious ceramic vases are arranged like a chandelier as they are cleverly suspended from the ceiling.

The downside

The problem with museums that offers so much to look at, is that it is hard to take it all in. Which is why I will have to return to both places.

When you are stuck for inspiration, it is worth studying the work artists and craftspeople from the past have created. Although there is such a wealth of beautiful objects to look at in our museums and galleries, it is easy to be overwhelmed.

Luckily, should you be feeling faint after absorbing so much culture, there is always the museum café to recover in. Although be warned, you have to walk outside to the nearby gardens to get coffee if you visit Sir John Soane’s place.

All photographs taken by Gareth Gardner, copyright of Sir John Sloane's museum.

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