Thursday, 17 June 2010

Antidote to brutality and vice

Anything containing "horror" in the title is of interest to my morbid curiosity, so that's why I took a closer look at Henry Cole and the chamber of horrors by Christopher Frayling.
Published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, this book details the origins and early history of the V&A. Henry Cole's gallery of false principles - which came to be known as the "chamber of horrors" - was the Museum's inaugural exhibition in 1852.
The book contains beautiful colour plates of the known surviving exhibits and explores the relationship between culture and society.
Cole, in his famous 1874 speech, said: "Schools of Art are there to instruct chiefly the young, but Museums are there to instruct the young and old...they are temples where all can worship in harmony; they teach good habits of order, and cleanliness and politeness...Museums are antidotes to brutality and vice."
Just like libraries!

(Photograph of Henry Cole by A J Melhuish, 1870. Museum no. 355-1886, from the V&A website)