Until the late 1980s the catalogues at the Soane were essentially a series of lists, each one produced by a different Director and each containing slightly different, or additional, information. There were also card indexes and large amounts of correspondence, bills and other documents in the archives.
Works of Art & Antiquities
Our 81 oil paintings and 500 of our antiquities were already available via our website and this data is migrated here.
In the 1980s and 1990s, over about 15 years, a paper catalogue of all the works of art was compiled. This involved photocopying every entry ever made for each object over the last 200 years and pasting them onto sheets to create one unified record for every object in the collection. These were then classified / grouped so that you can go to a box for example, specifically for architectural models, Oriental items, stained glass etc. etc.
The only computerised element was a Findings List comprising object number, category and location. For the remaining Works of Art & Antiquities this is all we had available electronically to migrate into the new system. Staff continue to work on and develop this information to ensure that all records include a description and an image. This is a large and complex task but one that continues to be tackled ‘behind the scenes’.
In the late 1980s all 30,000 of our drawings - whether loose sheets or pasted into volumes - were microfilmed and a Concise Catalogue, a sheet by sheet listing, was produced to accompany this.
During the 1990s detailed cataloguing was carried out (for example, the catalogue of our Italian Renaissance drawings, of our George Dance drawings and of many others for the 1999 Soane exhibition at the Royal Academy) but this work was all done for conventional print publishing - all those entries remain to be transferred into our new database.
Only drawings catalogued directly into web-hosted databases in the last 5 years or so have been migrated here.
An outline list of 30,000 drawings in Soane's Collection.
Fortunately the complete catalogue of Soane's library, after 25 years work, was already available via our website and this data is available here in over 6,000 records. Moving from one database system to another has necessitated some content editing which we are working on.
The Archives at Sir John Soane’s Museum fall into two sections: the Soane Archive and the Post-Soane Archive.
The Soane Archive consists of Soane’s business and personal papers including Journals, Ledgers and Bill Books, the latter including the bills relating to his purchase of many of the books, drawings and works of art which he collected. This archive also includes the texts of his lectures given as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy.
The Post-Soane Archive consists of the records created in the administration of the Museum by successive Curators (later Directors) since 1837, including Minutes of the Trustees, Annual Reports and Accounts and Visitors Books.
Available resources have not yet permitted these archives to be catalogued in electronic format to date.