Our Visitors Services Team are the public face of the Soane Museum. From greeting visitors at the front door, to bringing Hogarth’s paintings to life in the Picture Room, they ensure a visit to the Soane is like no other. To celebrate being a finalist for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017, we spoke to the team to find out what makes working at the Soane so special, and how it has inspired them.

Joanna

What’s your favourite object or space in the Museum? 

From the architecture to the placement of objects, the Museum is such a strong representation of Soane’s personality it  is sometimes hard to believe that he is a stranger and not an old friend. My favourite object is defintiely the bust of Soane by the sculptor Francis Chantry. In 1835 Soane secured a private Act of Parliament to ensure that the Museum remained as it was and for it to continue to be a free educational space for those interested in art, architecture and archaeology. After Soane cemented the Museum’s status, he focused on his legacy within it, making several changes including placing the bust in the Colonnade. I believe this is how Sir John wanted to be remembered, in the heart of the Museum, casting a watchful eye over his architectural masterpiece, his collection and its new admirers. 

Why do you enjoy working at the Soane? 

I wake up every day and look forward to being in the Museum. Even on a challenging day, all is forgotten after seeing the amazement on visitor’s faces. It is a constant reminder of how I felt the first time I visited - I am truly lucky to be surrounded by such an awe inspiring building and collection.

How has the Soane inspired you?

I am inspired to help visitors love this special place as much as I do. Sir John wanted very little interpretation in the Museum so the Visitor Services team are the people that bring it to life. The objects have such important stories to tell, not just why Soane purchased them but the dialogues between objects and spaces, and their amazing histories – we have things connected to everything here, from Egyptian burial rites and Greek feasts to fictional monks that lurk in basement cells. 

Jeff

What’s your favourite object or space in the Museum?

My favourite object is the Riva Degli Schiavoni, seen from the west and painted in around 1736 by Canaletto. It is considered one of the best Canaletto works in the world. Its impact is felt before you even enter the space where it resides. It gives the grand illusion of approaching the great Venetian site in person as we promenade down Sir John’s Colonnade towards the Picture Room.  Observe the forest of masts in the background and the attention to detail. 

Why do enjoy working at the Soane?

It is such a joy to wander like Ulysses through this cornucopia of objects and fragments, through this grey communion of plaster cast and stone. If architecture is truly ‘petrified music’ then the Soane is a frozen symphony. 

How has the Soane inspired you?

I take great delight in how borrowed light slowly reveals different aesthetic effects. It is still a personal joy to share these visual ideas with the public and see them anew.  As Proust once said ‘The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’ What a blessing then, that Soane’s son George didn’t take possession of this truly extraordinary collection and it was left to us, the people instead. 

Georgia

What’s your favourite object or space in the Museum?

I am fascinated by Sir John Soane’s interest in the revival of the Gothic style and his satirical homage to it in the design of the Monk’s Parlour.  The space located in Number 14, was inspired by the novel The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis, and was designed as one of the living quarters for Soane’s alter ego Padre Giovanni.  The small intimate setting includes various fragments from the Palace of Westminster, and models of Soane’s most celebrated building, the Bank of England.  Directly above the Monks Parlour is the Picture Room Recess, this allows one to see the paintings above from a different perspective, and truly produces the contemporary title for Soane as the ‘master of light and space.’

Why do you enjoy working at the Soane?

I reall enjoy working at the Soane, because you constantly learn new things about Soane as an architect, his family, the design of the rooms, and the collection.  Through the enthusiasm from my fellow colleagues and the incredible variety of artefacts in the collection, this produces a very enjoyable working atmosphere. It is always great to speak to the general public whose enthusiasm regarding the three houses mirrors our own. 

How has the Soane inspired you?

I have developed an extensive interest in Soane’s architecture and the various ways in which the Museum evidences his brilliance. I am particularly interested in the way in which 12, 13 and 14 Lincoln’s Inn Fields are a projection of Soane’s architectural designs for other buildings during and after the Regency period.  This is evident in the canopy-dome ceiling of the Number 13 Breakfast Room, which can also be seen on the family tomb, the Rotunda at the Bank of England, and in Dulwich Picture Gallery. I particularly enjoy how different each room is and how this shows Soane’s potential as an architect.

We want to hear how you’ve been inspired by Soane, as we vie to be named Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017! Tell us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #inspiredbysoane and #museumoftheyear.