Sloane's antiquities: providing a "body of history" through beads, bottles, brasses and busts
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Sir Hans Sloane, Secretary and then President of the Royal Society, presented the Society of Antiquaries with the bronze lamp which became the symbol of their society but he was never a Fellow. Sloane’s collection included more than 2,000 antiquities, described in his own manuscript catalogue of his collections, the subject of a recent research project to understand how cataloguing helped to produce new knowledge. We know Sloane’s antiquities from the perspective of the modern curatorial disciplines in which they are now studied; but in this paper, I explore how Sloane and his contemporaries, Fellows and collectors from these other societies understood, described and categorised them. Thanks to the project, we can even glimpse how they were arranged in Sloane’s cabinets and thus how antiquities were used by ‘the scholarly society’ to understand, and sometimes misunderstand, the past.