High up inside the Sir John Soane’s Museum is a room that has never been seen by the public, until now that is. The Drawing Office, where Soane’s draftsmen and apprentices worked is also the oldest surviving example of its kind and has been recently restored.

Due to its small confines and previously fragile structure, the Drawing Office has never been open to the visitor route, but it will now be open twice a week to the public, for the first time in its 200-year history.

The Drawing Office (c) Sir John Soane’s Museum / Photo: Gareth Gardener

The tours will take place on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2pm. Tours are expected to last around 20 minutes, departing from the Library-Dining Room. These free tours are not bookable in advance, and they can only take a maximum group size of six into the Drawing Office, so they will operate on a first-come first-served basis.

When you arrive at the museum, tell the visitor assistant you want to join the tour, and they will add your name to the list, if there are spaces left.

However — there’s a public open day as well, on Monday 22nd May, where they will be running pre-booked tours all day. There will be 14 tours starting from 10am, and they need to be booked in advance, from here. For the open day tours, tea and coffee will be served during a 10 minute introduction in the Library Dining Room which will precede a tour of the Drawing Office. The rest of the Museum will remain closed.

During the restoration, structural works beneath the Office had to be carried out, and excitingly, the conservation team discovered an unexpected 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 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.

(c) Sir John Soane’s Museum

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.

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.”


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One comment
  1. Chris Rogers says:

    Last time I went to the museum, a year or so ago, I was a bit baflled to NOT be able to see the basement gallery expensively refub’d about 12 years ago and used for exhibitions

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