Last chance to see what all the world desires

By on 16/09/2009 in News

boultonThe magnificent Matthew Boulton - Selling what all the world desires at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery will close on Sunday 27th September.

The exhibition has marked the bicentenary of the death of the great industrial pioneer and founding member of the Lunar Society, Matthew Boulton (1728-1809).

Boulton is renowned for his partnership with James Watt in developing the steam engine, which drove Britain's Industrial Revolution and his active role in the Lunar Society, a group of thinkers who were at the heart of the eighteenth century Age of Enlightenment.

Matthew Boulton - Selling what all the world desires not only includes material from Birmingham Museum's and the City Archives' own world-famous collections, but also features significant loans from the Royal Collection, national museums, Birmingham Assay Office, private collectors and other external partners.  The title strapline 'Selling what all the world desires'  is taken from his quote; ‘I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to have – POWER!’
Matthew Boulton to James Boswell, 1776.

The exhibition showcases the extensive and exceptional collections of Boulton's personal papers and manufactured products held by the city.  These provide a unique opportunity to explore Boulton's many interests and partnerships that led to for instance, his production of national coinage, as well as the decorative silverware, Sheffield plate and ormolu that graced the homes of the rich and famous. At the same time his Soho Manufactory, an international tourist attraction in its day, continued to produce everyday metal goods such as buttons and buckles which were affordable to working people.

The exhibition charts the rise of Boulton from the son of a one-time button maker – typical of many of Birmingham's local family businesses – to international fame and fortune. Boulton's home, Soho House, now part of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, was both a focus for family and social life, but also his interests in fashion, design and landscape gardening.

Boulton helped with the establishment of Birmingham's Assay Office, now the busiest in the world, as well as Soho Mint, the General Hospital and was a great supporter of cultural activities within the then town.

Councillor Martin Mullaney, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture said: Matthew Boulton is one of the founding fathers of Birmingham and his ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit helped to power the industrial revolution and put Birmingham on the global map.  This exclusive exhibition allows both local people and visitors from far and wide to appreciate Boulton's contribution to the modern world.

This exhibition brings together a year long programme of celebrations of his bicentenary and which include exhibitions at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, an exhibition at Soho House and a major academic conference co-hosted by the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University.

Admission to the exhibition Matthew Boulton: Selling what all the world desires  at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is free.  For further details on the exhibition, please visit or call 0121 303 1966.

This exhibition is part of a wider Celebration of Imagination campaign which recognises the great minds behind the innovations that defined the region.  The campaign includes events and activities taking place across the wider region for further information visit 


Media Contact: Jason Lewis: 0121 303 4266,

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