Antiquarianism and Archeology: Publications of the Society of Dilettanti

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Exhibition curated by Amy Silverman, Special Collections Research Center Exhibits Assistant.

In 1732, an interest in travel and in art collecting, as well as socializing, led a group of young English aristocrats to found the Society Dilettanti. Although originally considered a frivolous group which met monthly to toast "Greek taste and Roman spirit," the Dilettanti, grew to receive both social and academic acclaim through publishing notable books on antiquities and sponsoring expeditions to classical lands. The Society's encouragement of the detailed historical study of objects and buildings which had previously been narrowly admired as exemplars of art and architecture aided in the development of the modern discipline of archeology. The exhibit illustrates the growth of Dilettantism from self-indulgent pastime of the rich to a founding element of the scientific and historical study of antiquity. The books included in the exhibit reflect the character of both an emergent archeology and the social and cultural atmosphere which surrounded it.