Trails around the Museum

Discover the secrets of Sir John Soane's Museum through these trails, which take a thematic approach looking at some of the hidden connections between the objects that Soane collected.  Download a trail before you visit the Museum, and let them guide you on your visit around Soane's magical House....

Napoleonica in the Soane

For many Britons Napoleon was a figure of fascination. He was admired by the poets Keats and Byron and the writer William Hazlitt. Sir John Soane evidently shared this fascination and purposely sought out items with a Napoleonic connection to add to his collection. Soane also much admired the architectural changes that Paris had undergone during Napoleon’s reign. This trail guides visitors to items of Napoleonica which Soane placed on permanent display within the Museum.

Download the Napoleonica in the Soane Trail

London In The Soane

This trail lets you explore London through Soane’s collection and in the process to discover more about the pieces in the Museum. You will see buildings, some still standing and some long vanished, imagined and fragmentary. You will come face to face with its people: artists and architects, kings, and heroes, rogues and adventurers. Here are evocations of great events in the capital and aspects of London life, brought together under one roof.  Download to begin exploring!

Download the London Trail

Caring for Soane's Collection

In this trail, you will view the Museum through a conservator's eyes.  What is involved in ensuring that Sir John's wonderful collection is preserved for future generations to enjoy?  How do you protect the collection from damage by dirt, dust, light, pests and visitors?  Follow this trail for a fascinating glimpse into the work that is undertaken by our team of conservators, warders and curators to ensure that Soane’s building and collection is preserved and protected.

Download the Conservation Trail

Flaxman at the Soane

The sculptor John Flaxman (1755-1826) was a close friend of John Soane. The two met through the Royal Academy, where they both held professorships.  Between 1834 and Soane’s death in 1837, Flaxman's sister-in-law Maria Denman supplied Soane with 75 Flaxman models, as well as a number of drawings and approximately 70 other objects from Flaxman’s collections. Use this trail to find some of these objects, some secreted away in nooks and crannies that you may have missed, but all proudly displayed by Soane in his grand Museum.

Download the Flaxman Trail

Image of the first page of the Flaxman trail

Miscellaneous Marvels

This trail highlights a series of unusual and curious treasures that may be found amongst the many diverse riches in Soane’s collection. You will see ‘beautiful spontaneous excrescences of nature’ cut from an ash tree, Antediluvian snails, (actually fossilized ammonite shells), the imposing sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I and rare Peruvian pottery of the pre-Columbian period.  Soane really did have an eye for the unusual, diverse and arresting.  Follow the trail to learn more about some of the oddities amongst Soane's collection.

Download the Miscellaneous Marvels Trail

Cover of the Miscellaneous Marvels trail

Thoroughly Modern Soane

This trail explores Soane’s use of new technologies and materials. From the extraordinary movable ‘planes’ he designed to display his collection of paintings to his pioneering (and temperamental) under-floor heating systems. It shows us how Soane used hollow terracotta bricks in construction and how he was one of the first architects to use plate glass.  Follow the trail to learn more about Soane as a man ahead of his time.

Download the Thoroughly Modern Soane Trail

Image of the first page of the Thoroughly Modern Soane Trail

Portraits and Personalities Trail

Here we look at some of the varied personalities represented in Soane’s collection, giving an insight into his family life, his circle of friends, his professional connections and the people he admired. We will come face to face with Soane himself, his beloved wife Eliza and their ‘cruel and flinty-hearted sons’. We will see great characters from Soane’s day including the Emperor Napoleon, together with figures from history such as William Shakespeare and Oliver Cromwell.  Discover how these characters influences Soane's life and work. In addition, the trail takes in the Soane Gallery’s exhibition entitled ‘Face to Face; British Portrait Prints from the Clifford Chance art collection’ and looks at how modern and contemporary artists have responded to the portrait.

Download the Portraits and Personalities Trail

Image of the First Page of the Portraits and Personalities Trail

Bibliomania; or Book Madness

This trail looks at one of Soane's passions - collecting books, and how his life-long love of literature influenced both his collecting, and the architecture of his home.  See how Soane paid homage to his literary heroes, such as Milton and Shakespeare, which works featured in his collection and even how the Museum has been depicted in literature!  For more information on our library holdings, please follow this link

Download the Bibliomania Trail

Become a friend of the Soane and help secure our future.