Thursday (9 June) marks the culmination of our pilot project on the Alan Sorrell archive, as Prof Matthew Johnson and I present our findings to the fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London during their regular Thursday night meeting. I have to admit that I’m anxious about this event especially because of the nature of the Society, with its incredibly rich historical and intellectual legacy. If you’re keen to know more about the institution, you can browse their website here, or look at Joan Evans’ (1956) impressive tome on its history, or the more recent edited volume Visions of Antiquity (2007), or many other articles published in, for instance, the Society’s own Antiquaries Journal.
We’re speaking for 50 minutes, and I’ve put together a very small exhibition to accompany the talk (of some of the visual material from the archive that we’ve been studying). The exhibition will be displayed in the Society itself, so unfortunately only Fellows and Fellows’ guests will be able to see it, but some of the imagery is visible on our project blog here, and we’re hopeful that the exhibition will have a life beyond this showing alone.
I feel very fortunate to have been involved in this project, not only in the sense of having an opportunity to navigate the halls of the amazing Burlington House (home of the Society, alongside an array of other learned institutions) and to collaborate with the Society’s hugely kind and supportive staff, but also to meet and work with the Sorrell family–an inspiring group of artists and writers who have warmly welcomed me into their home. Moreover, I’ve been in touch with interested people and organisations from around the world who have similarly shared their archives and ideas with me. Obviously I’m keen to keep in contact if anyone has thoughts or materials that might be relevant to this research – thank you!
If you are interested in the nature of our talk, I’ve posted the abstract below. And perhaps I’ll see you on Thursday evening…
ROMANTICISM AND RECONSTRUCTION: ALAN SORRELL AND HIS INFLUENCE ON ARCHAEOLOGY
Abstract: Alan Sorrell is best known today as a ‘reconstruction artist’, employed between the 1930s and 1970s by the Ministry of Works and other bodies to produce reconstructions of ancient monuments and recreations of ancient life. The archive containing many of his papers, working drawings, correspondence and other material is currently on loan to the Society of Antiquaries of London. This paper reports on initial researches into this and other archival materials funded through a British Academy Small Grant. It discusses how the archive throws new light not just on Sorrell’s career and achievements, but on the intellectual and professional development of archaeology as a whole in the mid-20th century.