As I prepared to head over to the meet Dr. Frances Sands at the Soane Museum to see their collection of James and Robert Adam documents, an armed robbery was in progress somewhere nearby. With police in pursuit, the getaway car sped past Soane Museum on the north side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Trying to dispose of evidence, the thieves tossed their gun from the moving car. The gun came to rest on the sidewalk in front of the Soane Museum.
Arriving shortly after, I found the police in full forensic’s mode. No one was allowed in or out of the museum. I reschedule for the following day. This is as close as I probably will ever get to a CSI moment. At least I hope so.
In 1833 John Soane, a voracious collector of architectural artifacts, came across an opportunity to buy an extensive collection of drawings by the architects James and Robert Adam. The Adam brothers were contemporaries of Soane with their major work executed from around 1750 to 1790. He bought the drawings, all 8,000 of them, for the sum of 200 British pounds. That would be about 16,000 Pounds today. Each of these amazing drawings was acquired for the price of a couple of postcards. The collection, which is about 80% of all the surviving drawings produced during Robert Adams’ careers. Somehow they remained intact while passing through many hands in the years after Robert Adam and his younger brother James were deceased. I find it incredible that they survived at all.
The collection, over 200 years old, has been in a preservation process for the last few years and is now being cataloged and photographed. Frances is leading this monumental task and in the process, researching the stories behind each drawing. So there is a bit of a white-gloved detective work involved. With the previous day’s crime scene still fresh in my mind, seeing Frances carefully analyze these fragile drawings for clues, it occurs that her work is as mysterious and meticulous as yesterday’s police scene.