William Sterling

The Enlightenment and the British Museum

This one day course was be run by the City Lit on Saturday 17th Novemebr 2012.  Both a product and promoter of the Enlightenment, founded in 1753 the British Museum is the oldest museum of its kind in the World. The course included a visit to the British Museum.

Using images from the British Museum including works that will be looked at directly in the last part of the day we shall look at the background of the Enlightenment, the founding of the British Museum in 1753, the oldest institute of its kind anywhere in the world and the collectors who made the museum possible such as Hans Sloane, Charles Townley, William Hamilton, Lord Elgin and explorers such as Joseph Banks and Captain Cook.

The course ran in three parts. In the first session we looked at the background of the Enlightenment and the founding of the British Museum via a National Lottery to purchase Sloane’s vast collection of 80,000 “natural and artificial rarities” and 50,000 works on paper. The second session looked at some of the great collectors and how they accumulated their treasures such as Charles Townley, William Hamilton and Lord Elgin, as well as some of the other leading figures. After lunch we went to the Museum for a tour of the Enlightenment Gallery and explored other parts of the museum such as the Parthenon sculptures, some of Townley’s and Hamilton’s collections, plus the Portland Vase and Wedgwood’s copies of it.

Below are some of the resources I used on the course.

Enlightenment Book List

British Museum time line