The coffee house redux

The Antiquarian Society, cartoon by George Cruikshank, 1812. ©Society of Antiquaries of London

The Antiquarian Society, cartoon by George Cruikshank, 1812. ©Society of Antiquaries of London

Yesterday I had the privilege of presenting a talk about Chinese wallpaper to the Society of Antiquaries of London at their splendid premises in Burlington House. The Society was founded in 1707 and its aims are to support research into the material past, to foster public understanding of our heritage and to engage in the formulation of public policy on the care of our cultural property.

Above is an impression of one of the Society’s meetings in Regency times, but fortunately the Fellows who came to my talk yesterday were not quite so rowdy.

Lloyd's Coffee House, cartoon by George Woodward, 1798, at Calke Abbey. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Lloyd’s Coffee House, cartoon by George Woodward, 1798, at Calke Abbey. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Apart from being wonderfully rude, the Cruikshank cartoon also hints at the very real creative and intellectual ferment that can arise when like-minded people get together and start exchanging and debating ideas – I have mentioned this ‘coffee house’ or ‘liquid network’ effect in a previous post.

Indeed I think there was some of that going on at the Society yesterday, facilitated, as in the coffee houses of old, by the availability of refreshments. I was certainly stimulated and challenged by the questions asked by the Fellows following my talk and by the further discussions afterwards.

And the Antiquaries have taken the coffee house into the twenty-first century, by making these talks available online complete with audio, video and synchronised slides. So for those who are interested, my talk is available here.

6 Responses to “The coffee house redux”

  1. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    Agreed – there was a very real creative and intellectual ferment that arose when like-minded people got together and started exchanging and debating ideas. I would have gone there myself, had women been allowed.

    But that is exactly what made the coffee houses so potentially subversive to the authorities. Not just intellectual ferment… but sharing radical thoughts, reading newspapers with up-to-date political news, the powerful stimulation of coffee etc.

  2. Susan Walter Says:

    The Ants are terrific. I could never aspire to be one, but gosh I’m glad they exist. Well done you with the lecture. I watched the whole thing. You illustrated it beautifully and they were clearly really engaged — lots of questions, no nattering in the background.

  3. Deana Sidney Says:

    I really loved your presentation. I have sent it around to pals who love Chinese wallpaper as much as I do. Fabulous examples. I can’t wait to buy the book.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks Deana, glad you liked it!

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