“Enlightenment architectures: The reconstruction of Sir Hans Sloane’s cabinets of ‘Miscellanies’”
Kim Sloan, Julianne Nyhan
Journal of the History of Collections
05 December 2020
Focusing on Sir Hans Sloane’s catalogue of ‘Miscellanies’, now in the British Museum, this paper asks firstly how Sloane described objects and secondly whether the original contents of the cabinets can be reconstructed from his catalogue. Drawing on a sustained, digitally augmented analysis – the first of its kind – of Sloane’s catalogues, we respond to these questions and offer an initial analysis of the contents of the cabinets that held the miscellaneous objects at Sloane’s manor house in Chelsea. Knowledge of how and why Sloane catalogued this part of his collection has hitherto remained underdeveloped. We argue that his focus on preservation and documentation in his cataloguing did not preclude a research role, but rather was founded on immersive participation. Our work was undertaken as part of a Leverhulme Trust funded research project, Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s Catalogues of his Collections (2016–19), a collaboration between the British Museum and University College London.