History Today: The educational archive of articles, news and study aids for teachers, students and enthusiasts, from the world's leading history magazine
HomeMagazinesHistory Today Current IssueHistory Review Current IssueHistory in the NewsArchivesSubscriptions & ShopPrint & Online SubscriptionsInstitutions OnlinePurchase Online Articles History Today Back IssuesHistory Review Back IssuesMagazine BindersGift SubscriptionHistorical DVDsHistorical MapsClassifiedsInteractiveCompetitionsSpecial OffersPolling StationWhat's OnLinksBooksClassroomStudy GuidesReference SuiteOn This DayAbout UsNew to History Today?Contact UsHelp & Writers' GuidelinesPermissions & ReprintsAdvertising RatesTerms & ConditionsPrivacy Policy & Disclaimer
Sex and Sensibility at the British Museum
David Gaimster reveals the origins and contents of the British Museum's Secretum, a hidden repository of artefacts deemed pornographic and unfit for public gaze by Victorian curators.

Sex and Sensibility at the British Museum

Since the introduction of the printing press at the end of the Middle Ages with its ability to replicate the visual image, the dividing line between art and obscenity has been constantly changing. Today we are surrounded by the sexual image, on television, in magazines, on video and on our home PCs. Pornography is becoming an increasingly accepted part of British popular culture and remains the only business that consistently turns a profit on the net. But the political and moral dilemma between access to sexual culture and its regulation has a long heritage in Britain going back to the decades before the drafting of the first obscenity legislation in the mid-nineteenth century.

If museums are a physical metaphor for the way in which the present sees the past, then their collections reflect the cultural and moral attitudes of successive generations of curators in both their choice of artefacts and in the strategies used to classify them. Perhaps it is here that we can best trace the origins of public delicacy towards the erotic and the development of the strict division between art and obscenity. The British Museum ‘Secretum’ or ‘secret museum’, founded officially in 1865 in the wake of ...

Full article available to subscribers or pay-per-view customers.
Please click to log-on, subscribe or purchase pay-per-view credits.

 Shopping basket Online subscription 
Purchase an online subscription from History Today's online shop, and proceed to viewing the article.
 Shopping basket Pay-per-view 
Purchase credits for pay-per-view and proceed to viewing the article.
Returning users with online subscription or article credits
Please use login box on your top right to log in.

User login

Forgotten your password ?

Articles in Volume: 50 Issue: 9
Sex and Sensibility at the British Museum
The Spitfire Legend
The Port Royal Earthquake
Britain 1600
Justice on Behalf of Heaven
Access to the Countryside
Teachers Rule OK
No Shadows
The Turin Shroud
The Sussex Network
Prize Writers
The Birth of Urho Kekkonen
The French Surrender Malta
California becomes a State of the Union
Digging for Joy
Cover image September 2000
Add this back issue to your shopping basket.
 Buy this back issue 
Home | Magazines | Subscriptions & Shop | Interactive | Classroom | About Us | Terms & Conditions | Privacy
© History Today 2006 All Rights Reserved