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Making History - Royal Academy of Arts (preview)

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN EXHIBITION exploring the work and achievement of the Fellowship of the Society of Antiquaries of London since its foundation in the early eighteenth century to the present day, Making History: Antiquaries in Britain, 1707 – 2007 will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts from September 15 to December 2, 2007.

The exhibition, consisting of 190 works, will showcase for the first time treasures from Britain’s oldest Learned Society concerned with the study of the past. It will feature unique works of art, antiquities and manuscripts of national historical importance, from one of the oldest museum collections in this counrty.

These will include a Yorkist processional cross recovered from the battlefield of Bosworth (1485), the inventory of Henry VIII’s possessions at the time of his death and an early copy of Magna Carta.

Also on show will be paintings of ancient sites and landscapes by Constable, Turner and Blake, plus an extraordinary collection of English royal portraits from Henry VI to Mary Tudor. In addition, there will be the only surviving visual records of objects long since lost or destroyed.

The exhibition will explore key stages in the creation of Britain’s historical narrative, from the earliest archaeological discoveries of the early modern age to the rise of the professional historians and archaeologists in the 20th century and insights into how we might study the past in the future.

It will culminate with a special study of Stonehenge, arguably Britain’s best know monument, revealing how our understanding of its history keeps on changing over time thanks to the process of research and to new discoveries such as a recently unearthed late medieval drawing of the megaliths, never before seen in this country.

The exhibition’s guest curator, the celebrated historian Dr David Starkey FSA, said, “For me, history has always been as much about things – buildings, paintings, jewels – as written documents. So this Exhibition won’t simply be a display of the Society’s treasures – wonderful though they are – it’s also an opportunity to show how history is made and why it matters.”

The Society of Antiquaries of London was founded in 1707 following a meeting of three like-minded individuals whose agreed aim was to further the study of British history prior to the reign of James I. In 1751, the Society received its Royal Charter from George II and was charged with ‘the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries.’

Since 1707, it has been at the forefront of research in archaeology and the study of the historic sites, monuments and artefacts of Britain. Through objects and biographies of leading antiquaries, the exhibition will feature milestones in the discovery, recording, preservation, interpretation and communication of Britain’s past through its material footprint and reveal how new discoveries and technologies have transformed understanding of our history.

Admission: £8, £6.50 (Registered Disabled and seniors), £5.50 (NUS/ISIC cardholders), £4 (12 – 18 years and Income Support), £3 (8 – 11 years), free (under 7).

For more information call 0870 848 8484 or visit the website.