A Temple To Morpheus: The British Antiquarian Society in 1812

One of the stated goals of the American Hysterical Society is to demonstrate that poking fun at the history and museum professions is an old and easy amusement.  Our research has indicated three reasons for this. First, the moment one becomes interested in the past they become different than everyone else, and different usually translates as odd. Secondly, throughout history (and continuing to today) anyone who has read a couple of old books or collects antiques can call themselves a scholar of the past. Third, and lastly, that much of the research done by historians and antiquarians has always seemed to non-history people to be so esoteric as to be incomprehensible, useless, or boring.

‘Twas ever thus, as our newest collections piece demonstrates. Here, from the June 1st, 1812 edition of The Scourge: Or, Monthly Expositor of Imposture and Folly, is a look at Britain’s Antiquarian Society. Apart from the flowery language and some unfamiliar proper nouns, we think this piece will feel very familiar to modern history and museum professionals.

The Antiquarian Society, by George Cruikshank. Frontispiece for this issue of The Scourge. © Trustees of the British Museum

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About T.H. Gray

T.H. Gray is the self-appointed court jester and Dr. Demento for the history museum field. A lifelong museum professional and reenactor, he is a graduate of the prestigious Peale-Barnum Public History Museum Studies Program. Until 2011, when the AHS hired him away, he was on staff at the Benjamin Dover Memorial Museum & Swimming Pool ("Our History is All Wet!"). He remembers when museums were still about history, science, and art. BTW, all of these posts say they are by T.H. Gray because he can't turn off the byline. Credit, when due, is given. View all posts by T.H. Gray

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