Lancaster University and the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) have announced the purchase of the Whitehouse Ruskin Collection. This purchase has secured for the nation an unparalleled collection of the works of John Ruskin and his circle.

Ruskin was one of the leading thinkers of his age. He inspired some of the great social reformers of the twentieth century, from Gandhi to the architects of the welfare state. As an early environmentalist, he emphasised our need to protect the natural world, laying the foundations of the National Trust. Recording the built landscape of Venice through photography and drawing, he was among the first to spotlight the ecological danger to the city and campaign for its protection.

The Whitehouse Ruskin Collection at Lancaster University is the largest collection of Ruskin’s works in the world, including thousands of paintings and drawings, books and manuscripts, photographs and daguerreotypes.

The Collection will be showcased in the ‘Museum of the Near Future’ exhibition at The Ruskin – Library, Museum and Research Centre, the award-winning modernist building at Lancaster University. The exhibition runs from 26 September to 25 November 2019, and is open to the general public.

The exhibition will feature some of the Collection’s most important pieces, from Ruskin’s daguerreotypes, including some of the earliest known photographic images of Venice and the Alps, to his lecture diagrams, super-scale illustrations of everything from Renaissance architecture to plants and peacock feathers. Works by contemporary artists, inspired by Ruskin, will be shown alongside.

The theme of the exhibition, ‘Museum of the Near Future’, celebrates a transformation in how the Collection will be shared, revealing the relevance of Ruskin’s thinking and work to our world today.

Professor Sandra Kemp, Director of The Ruskin, said: ‘Ruskin lived at a time of rapid change. He saw how the development of trade, travel and technologies shaped people and their environments. His motto was ‘Today’. He believed that the way we see things now will form the way we think and behave in the future. The Ruskin – Library, Museum and Research Centre will explore how Ruskin’s ideas speak powerfully to our own era, inviting us to look closely, see clearly and imagine freely, in order to build a better future for all.’

Ros Kerslake, CEO of NHMF, said: ‘2019 marks 200 years since the birth of John Ruskin and so the acquisition of this important collection during the bicentenary year is very timely. The Ruskin is the perfect home for the archive. The plan to digitise it and share the work and life of Ruskin with more people than ever before is one of the key reasons why we at the National Heritage Memorial Fund felt compelled to support it.’

The exhibition marks the start of an ambitious programme of activities to share Ruskin’s daguerreotypes, drawings, prints, diaries and letters – including correspondence with J.M.W. Turner, Charles Darwin, and social reformer Octavia Hill. This revolution in public access to the Collection will open new avenues of research and invite fresh perspectives from audiences, which will drive future exhibitions.

At the same time, The Ruskin will begin conserving the Collection. With the largest number of Ruskin’s lecture diagrams in the world, many of them hitherto unseen since they were first used, The Ruskin is launching a campaign to raise the funds needed to care for these unique pieces, to ensure they will be available to all in perpetuity.

The ‘Ruskin: Museum of the Near Future’ exhibition is open 26 September – 25 November 2019, 10.00-16.00, weekdays. It is open to the general public without charge. 


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