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McMullen Museum Presents North American Debut of "Making History: Antiquaries In Britain"

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (September 2011)  —  The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College presents the North American debut of Making History: Antiquaries in Britain, which showcases treasures from the Society of Antiquaries of London, a 300-year-old society for people concerned with the study of the past, which still thrives today. It is on display through December 11, 2011.

Comprising 98 of the Society’s most significant works, the exhibition traces milestones in the discovery, recording, preservation, interpretation, and communication of Britain’s history. The internationally important artifacts on display, which includes manuscripts of the Magna Carta from 1225 and the Winton Domesday Book, as well as royal portraiture, provide a timeline for British history. (More below.)

Hans Eworth (c. 1520-1574), Mary I, 1554, Oil on oak panels, Society of Antiquaries of London

Making History is based on an exhibition shown in 2007 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, which was curated by David Gaimster, former General Secretary and Chief Executive, Bernard Nurse, former Librarian, Julia Steele, former Collections Manager, Society of Antiquaries of London, and guest curator, historian David Starkey.

This exhibition—which marks the first time works from the Society of Antiquaries’ collection have been shown in North America—is a collaboration among the Society, Boston College McMullen Museum and Yale Center for British Art, and includes 41 of the Center’s celebrated works. Following its debut at Boston College, Making History will travel to Yale, where it will be displayed from February 2 through May 27, 2012.

“The McMullen is pleased to share the distinguished and unparalleled collections of the Society of Antiquaries with a North American audience and to have the opportunity to celebrate the Society’s contribution to more than three hundred years of writing history,” says McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer, who is a Fellow of the Society. [Slideshow of images, more exhibition details at]

Exhibition Curators
This exhibition has been organized by the Society of Antiquaries of London in association with the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, and the Yale Center for British Art. It has been curated by Nancy Netzer, Director of the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, and Elisabeth Fairman, Senior Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Yale Center for British Art, in association with Heather Rowland, Head of Library and Collections, and Julia Dudkiewicz, Collections Manager, Society of Antiquaries of London.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with two such prestigious university museums and to have such a wonderful opportunity to introduce the Society to an American audience,” said Maurice Howard, President of the Society of Antiquaries of London, who will attend a private event at Boston College to celebrate the opening of the exhibition.

Public Opening Celebration: Sunday, September 4, 7-9:30 p.m.
On Sunday, September 4, the public is invited to join BC community members at an opening celebration with a special evening viewing at the Museum, Devlin Hall 101. The event is free of charge. For information:

Magna Carta, after 1225, Manuscript with illuminated capitals on three membranes of joined parchment, Society of Antiquaries of London

Making History: Antiquaries in Britain
Through objects collected by the Society of Antiquaries of London (, the exhibition traces milestones in Britain’s history and explores ways in which scholars have interpreted history over the past 300 years. It examines beliefs current before the Society was founded in 1707 and reveals how new discoveries, technologies and interpretations have transformed understanding ever since.

Originally formed before the existence of national museums, libraries, and galleries, the Society’s collections of antiquities, drawings, historic books, manuscripts, and paintings provide a timeline for British history. Assembled together are artifacts of international importance; they include manuscripts of the Magna Carta from 1225 (the English charter, originally issued in the year 1215 and reissued later in the 13th century in modified versions, is widely viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy) and the Winton Domesday Book (a 12th-century English administrative document which records the landholdings in the city of Winchester).

Among other exhibition highlights are detailed records of lost buildings and objects, an outstanding collection of panel paintings including royal portraits from Henry VI to Mary I, and works from the Arts and Crafts movement by fellow William Morris, who left his house, Kelmscott Manor, to the Society. These works are displayed alongside loans from the celebrated collection of the Yale Center for British Art including rare books and paintings and drawings by Samuel Palmer, Edward Burne-Jones and Augustus Welby Pugin. 

A related exhibition on the inspiration of the Society of Antiquaries on the founding of the Massachusetts Historical Society will be mounted at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Exhibition Theme Sections
Making History is organized into the following nine sections:

Mists of Time
The Earliest Antiquaries
Foundation and Fellowship
Collecting for Britain
Opening the Tomb
Lost and Found
The Art of Recording (subsection: Stonehenge)
Bringing Truth to Light
Antiquaries and the Arts

Accompanying Catalogue
London’s Society of Antiquaries and Royal Academy of Arts produced a fully illustrated catalogue, Making History: Antiquaries in Britain 1707–2007, to accompany the exhibition. It contains an introduction written by David Starkey and includes a variety of essays surrounding the objects in the exhibition.

Exhibition Sponsors/Support
The exhibition has been organized by the Society of Antiquaries of London in association with the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, and the Yale Center for British Art. It has been underwritten by Boston College and the Patrons of the McMullen Museum.

McMullen Museum Installation
The installation has been designed by McMullen Museum exhibition designer Diana Larsen. Text has been designed by the McMullen’s graphic designer, John McCoy. Labels and wall texts were written by curators from the Society of Antiquaries, the McMullen Museum and the Yale Center for British Art, and copyedited by the McMullen’s publications administrator, Mary Curran.

Accompanying Public Programming:
In addition to the September 4 public opening reception, the following programs will be offered at Boston College. For more information, including times and locations, visit

Oct. 13: Making History–Making Music I. Concert of music by Byrd (BC’s Music in St. Mary’s series; time TBA)

Nov. 4-6:  Charles Haskins Society Conference on Anglo-Saxon History

Nov. 7: Making History–Making Music II. A recital of English song based on the current Antiquities exhibition. Including music by Purcell, Handel, Haydn, Britten, and Henry VIII. Charlotte de Rothschild, soprano, Danielle Perret, harp. St. Mary's Chapel, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 8: Making History–Making Music III. The Livre d'Or: a lecture/recital based on the autograph album of Charlotte de Rothschild (1807-1859). Music by Rossini, Bellini, Chopin, Mathilde de Rothschild and Meyerbeer.  Charlotte de Rothschild, soprano; Francesco Izzo, piano; Philip Gossett, commentator & accompanist. Gasson Hall 100, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 15: Clough Lecture by Margaret Marshall, former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, on the Magna Carta and Massachusetts State Constitution. 4:30 p.m., Gasson Hall 100.

McMullen Museum of Art
The McMullen Museum is renowned for organizing interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions and break new ground in the display and scholarship of the works on view. It serves as a dynamic educational resource for all of New England as well as the national and international community. The Museum mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, the Museum’s exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs. The McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 by the late BC benefactor, trustee and art collector John J. McMullen and his wife Jacqueline McMullen.

McMullen Museum Hours and Tours
Admission is free; handicapped accessible, open to the public. Located in Devlin Hall on BC’s Chestnut Hill campus, 140 Commonwealth Avenue. Hours during this exhibition: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Extended hours: September 30-October 2 (call for hours). Museum closed on: September 5, October 10, November 24-25. On-campus parking unavailable on: Saturday, September 17 and 24; Saturday, October 1; Thursday, November 3 and Saturday, November 12. Free group tours available: Sundays, starting September 18, from 2:00-2:45 p.m.  Tours arranged upon request by calling 617.552.8587. For directions, parking and information on public programs, visit or call 617.552.8100.

Media Note: To arrange an interview with McMullen Museum Director Nancy Netzer, contact her directly at; 617.552.8587.