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A History of the Fitzwilliam Museum

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Closed 24th December to 27th December 2021 and 31st December 2021 to 1st January 2022 inclusive closed Gallery closures and collection updates

To mark the Fitzwilliam Museum’s bicentenary, the Museum commissioned research into its own history, hitherto no more than cursorily treated in the prefaces to general Museum books or catalogues. The research involved in-depth investigation and assimilation of the contents of the Museum’s own archive, besides documents preserved in the archives of the University and national and regional archives. 

The principal output of this project has been Lucilla Burn’s publication, The Fitzwilliam Museum: a History.

This traces the story of the establishment and growth of the Museum from its origins in the 1816 bequest of Richard, seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, to the present day. It also sets the individual Museum story into the larger context of the growth and development of museums and galleries in the UK and beyond.

A second outcome has been the exhibition running through 2016 ‘Celebrating 200 years: the Fitzwilliam Museum 1816-2016’: this includes a timeline setting Museum landmarks alongside events of wider cultural significance.

Lucilla Burn and Suzanne Reynolds have revised and expanded article for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on Richard, seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion.

Research continues into the sourcing of and rationale behind the arrangement of the Parthenon frieze casts in the principal paintings gallery, and into the impetus for and changing styles of Fitzwilliam Museum guide-books over two centuries.

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