It’s our tenth Open House weekend! We first took part in Open House London in 2010, to mark the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary, and we enjoyed it so much that we’ve done it every year since then.

In 2019, the Open House dates are Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September. Entry to the Society’s building in Carlton House Terrace will be from 10:00am both days, with last admission at 4:15pm. Members of the Library team – Ellen, Virginia, Keith and me – will be working as tour guides and taking groups around the building every half an hour, but if you don’t wish to hear our tall tales then a self-guided tour leaflet is also available, or you’re perfectly free to potter around at your own pace.

Do check out the current display in our basement exhibition space, ‘Fiery Earth: the volcano and the Royal Society’, which features spectacular images from Sir William Hamilton’s observations of Vesuvius, and from the Krakatoa eruption of 1883. Here’s a link to the full Open House events listing, with details of all the arrangements for the weekend.


Night view of the eruption of Vesuvius on 8 August 1779. Plate two from the 1779 supplement to Sir William Hamilton’s ‘Campi Phlegraei’.


On Monday 23 September, I shall remove my (metaphorical) tour guiding hat and move into conference planning mode, as we count down the days to our autumn history of science event, ‘Collecting and Collections: Digital Lives and Afterlives’, which takes place from Thursday 14 to Friday 15 November. I’m grateful to conference organiser Professor Anna Marie Roos of the University of Lincoln for supplying the following background information on the AHRC Collective Wisdom Project (for which our conference is the third and final public workshop), along with details of an exciting benefit concert on the Thursday evening:

‘The purpose of the AHRC project is for an international network of scholars to explore how and why members of the Royal Society, the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Leopoldina, German National Academy of Sciences (Halle) collected specimens of the natural world, art and archaeology in the 17th and 18th centuries. Our first workshop in Halle analysed early modern physicians and their approaches to collecting, our second at the Society of Antiquaries examined connections between early modern antiquarianism and museum collections, and the third at the Royal Society will focus on early museums and digital humanities.

‘As part of our work, we looked at the Wunderkammer or Natural History Museum in the Historic Orphanage of the Francke Foundation in Halle, Germany. In 1698, August Hermann Francke created this global cabinet of artefacts and natural curiosities as a teaching tool for the children in his care; his ‘learning-by-doing’ approach included teaching the children to sing for public performance. Such ideas greatly influenced Thomas Coram’s vision for the Foundling Hospital in London.

‘Handel was a native of Halle, had Francke as his teacher, and was familiar with Francke’s use of musical performances to fundraise. Handel’s Messiah was subsequently performed in a benefit concert for Coram’s Hospital. As a tribute to the past efforts of Francke, Handel and Coram, the Royal Society will host a benefit concert of Baroque music to raise public awareness of the work of the Coram foundation for children in London. The concert, on 14 November at 7:00pm, is free to the public, with an optional donation to Coram’s Programme of Creative Therapies for Children. It will feature Baroque musicians 82 Degrees, and will include pieces by Handel, Haydn and Paganini.’


82 Degrees: Ada Maria Witczyk and Mark Walkem.


So, whether you’re inclined towards Georgian architecture, volcanoes, digital humanities or Baroque stars, I hope you’ve seen something to tempt you to Carlton House Terrace over the autumn. We look forward to welcoming you.


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