What is an Antiquary?
We are grateful to Fellows Rosemary Sweet, Emma Carver and John Cooper, who in 2019 tackled this question.
The term ‘antiquary’ first appeared in England in the sixteenth century, and referred to anyone who studied or collected the textual or material remains of the past. By the time of the Society’s foundation in 1707 this definition still held, and the Society’s membership encompassed remarkably diverse interests.
Today archaeologists, historians, anthropologists and art historians all fall within the sphere of the antiquarian project, unified by their curiosity in the human journey through time. The ambition to preserve and record the past that prompted the Society’s first founders has grown to sustain our modern heritage sector, and so our membership includes archivists, curators, conservators and other heritage professionals.
The Society is a Charity
The Society of Antiquaries is an educational charity that promotes understanding of the human past and recognises distinction in this field through election to its Fellowship. It offers expert advice on national and global heritage, hosts exhibitions and public lectures, supports academic research and publication, and awards grants towards the conservation of historic buildings.
Fellowship is not a professional qualification but is recognition by existing Fellows of the candidate’s achievements in a particular field of antiquarian activity, i.e. ‘excelling in the knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries’ (as specified in the Charter). There are currently just over 3,000 Fellows, including 42 Hon. Fellows. It is a responsibility of Council to set the maximum number of Fellows; the current limit, as set in 2013, is 3,300. Details about our current Fellowship can be found on our Fellows Public Directory and Fellows can access further information on the Fellows’ Platform.
The interest of the Society as a charity in the 21st-century is supporting the Fellowship and others to benefit the public by conserving and researching the physical remains of the past and communicating the resulting knowledge to a wide and varied audience. Fellows of the Society support those charitable aims through their subscriptions, but also by participating in and helping to organise lectures, seminars and other events, by serving on committees, contributing to exhibitions and publications and helping to raise funds.
The Society needs its Fellows to explain how the material remains of the past play a crucial role in the well-being and vibrancy of contemporary society. Its Statement of Values outlines the core values it supports and for which it carries out advocacy.
Advantages of Fellowship
Once a candidate has been elected and paid their admission fee and subscription, they officially become a Fellow and may:
- Use the post-nominal letters FSA, which are a public acknowledgement of status as a Fellow
- Take part in the governance of Society, i.e.
- the nomination and election of new Fellows, which can provide the opportunity to shape the nature of the Fellowship for the future. More information on how to nominate a new Fellow here.
- the annual election of Officers and Council members. List of current Council members here.
- approval of changes to the Statutes
- The Library and Collections at Burlington House are accessible to Fellows and external researchers and there are some services available to all:
- Photocopying and imaging services. Details and charges are available here.
For enquiries about image services please email: [email protected]
- All Library users can take their own digital photographs of material for personal research purposes only.
- WiFi access is available throughout the main Library and the library stacks.
- Only Fellows may:
- Borrow up to 8 books for 3 months and renew them up to 3 times if not required by another Fellow
- Access the full text of around 100 online journals and databases, including nearly 800 journal titles via JSTOR and over 700 e-books published by Archaeopress Digital. These are searchable and accessible through the Library catalogue
- Request books not in the library to be borrowed from the London Library for reference use only in the Society’s library.
- Access the Fellows’ platform area of the website including the full Fellows’ Directory and the Fellows’ Discussion Forum, which facilitates networking among Fellows. Login details are supplied to new Fellows when they pay their subscriptions; existing Fellows can find out how to login here.
- Attend Ordinary Meetings and lectures and invite guests. We hold 10 Public lectures a year, 18 Ordinary Meetings/Evening Lectures and two Miscellanies, Christmas and Summer. All our lectures are live streamed and you can watch past lectures on our YouTube channel. For our full programme and details on how to book visit here.
- Use the Fellows’ Room at Burlington House – tea and coffee served (for a nominal charge).
- Access bookable rooms at Burlington House at charity rates.
- Receive the following publications
- Antiquaries Journal in print form and online
- Receive Fellowship News (twice a year) – in print form
- Receive Salon (fortnightly) – online
- Join a Fellows’ regional group (currently Wales, York, the SW of England, the USA and Australasia)
- Enjoy free entry to Kelmscott Manor on public open days (excluding a guest)
- Enjoy free entry to the Society’s exhibitions
- Support the Society’s charitable activities