'Making History'

300 Years of Antiquaries in Britain

Rare objects from the collections of the Society of Antiquaries will tour the UK for the first time in the special exhibition, Making History: 300 Years of Antiquaries in Britain, opening on 4 October 2008, at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. For details of venues and dates, see our Making History website, where you can see pictures of the exhibits, explore our interactive timeline of Making History Milestones, and unwrap the 15th-century Roll Chronicle that is one of the major features of the exhibition.


Left: George Cruikshank, The Antiquarian Society, 1812, coloured engraving (copyright Society of Antiquaries of London)

Guest curated by celebrated historian David Starkey, CBE, FSA, and based on the widely acclaimed exhibition shown at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2007, the exhibition explores the development of our sense of the past, from antiquarianism to the rise of professional archaeology. As David Starkey says: ‘This exhibition shows how history is made and why it matters’.

The exhibition celebrates the tercentenary of the Society of Antiquaries of London. It has been adapted, with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, from the exhibition Making History: Antiquaries in Britain 1707-2007 shown at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in the autumn of 2007 to widespread media acclaim: Michael Prodger in the Sunday Telegraph called it ‘a delightful and rather brave show’, while Michael Glover in the Independent told his readers to ‘Visit. Marvel.’

Dates and venues

4 October 2008 to 3 January 2009: the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, Salisbury

17 January 2009 to 21 June 2009: the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

11 July 2009 to 4 October 2009: Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

16 October 2009 to 3 January 2010: The Collection, in Lincoln


Left: King Brutus from the Roll Chronicle, mid-fifteenth century, illumination on vellum (copyright Society of Antiquaries of London)



More about 'Making History'

Right: Attributed to Thomas Underwood, Drawing of the Ribchester helmet, 1798, watercolour on paper (copyright Society of Antiquaries of London)

The touring exhibition Making History: 300 Years of Antiquaries in Britain explores the making of the national heritage over three hundred years since the establishment of the first body concerned with the study of the past and its preservation. The foundation in a London tavern in 1707 of the Society of Antiquaries marked a defining moment in the public consciousness of the importance of antiquity in a rapidly industrializing Britain. Making History examines the contribution of the Society and antiquaries around the country to the formation of our current appreciation of the past. Through objects, monuments and the biographies of leading antiquaries, it reveals how new discoveries, technologies and interpretations have transformed that understanding, from our time when it was based largely on myth and Christian belief, and how they continue to change our perceptions today.

Originally formed at a time before the foundation of the national museums and galleries in the mid nineteenth century, the antiquities, historic books, drawings, manuscripts and paintings of the Society of Antiquaries of London form a timeline for the creation of British history. By linking the collections of the Society of Antiquaries with those of the host museum, the exhibition illustrates milestones in the discovery, recording, preservation, interpretation and communication of our past around England, from the South West to the Midlands and the North.