After a year of extensive restoration, Sir John Soane’s Museum opens Soane’s Drawing Office. The Drawing Office is the oldest surviving example of its kind and is now open to the public for the first time in its 200-year history. The opening also marks the launch of a new residency programme at the Soane Museum, which will see two artists hosted at the Museum each year.
The Drawing Office was the creative heart of Soane’s home on Lincolns Inn Fields. Here, Soane’s draftsmen and apprentices worked on his celebrated projects, inspired by his extensive collection. The Drawing Office is a central part of Soane’s own legacy, where he supported the next generation of architectural talent.
Opening alongside the Drawing Office, the Soane’s new residency programme will host two artists for three months in spring and autumn. The two residents will be able to work in the Office and draw from the Museum’s collection, exhibitions, and education programme to inspire their work. This year’s residents are Sam Belinfante, who will explore Soane’s collection in relation to theatre and performance, and Ella Baron, who will draw inspiration from Soane’s collection of architectural drawings and objects as she completes her debut graphic novel.
During significant structural works beneath the Office, the conservation team discovered a time capsule in the hollow base of a supporting column. Objects in the time capsule included a pipe with tobacco still in the bowl, some wood shavings, and a railway ticket from South Kensington. The team at the Soane worked in collaboration with the London Transport Museum to uncover who may have left this capsule. They believe it was left by a craftsperson during previous works at the Soane between 1928-29. To mark this discovery, a new time capsule has been placed within the repaired structure in the Office. The Soane’s Head of Conservation, Jane Wilkinson, selected a paintbrush, a small jar of gold leaf and a recent invoice for the purchase of paint.
The opening of the Drawing Office is accompanied by a large-scale digital project. As part of this project, the ‘Day Books’ in which Soane’s pupils recorded their work every day, have been digitised. This archive material will provide invaluable insight into the students who studied under Soane and their work. Digital scans of the Drawing Office’s interior have also been made which will enable new interactive virtual tours and interpretations for digital audiences, available online later this year. In the meantime, a short film about the restoration and insights into the history of the Office can be found at soane.org.
Bruce Boucher, Deborah Loeb Brice Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum, said: “The Drawing Office was the last major element of the fabric of Sir John Soane’s Museum to be restored, and we are deeply grateful to those who have supported this important project. Thanks to the restoration, the space will have renewed significance through the launch of our artists-in-residence programme. In addition, new tours and a dedicated microsite will bring the Office, and the work that is generated there, to our growing digital audience.”