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  • Writer's pictureDoug Chapman, MA

A Brief History of the Museum of Classical Archaeology

What is the Museum of Classical Archaeology?

The Museum of Classical Archaeology is a museum in Cambridge University’s Faculty of Classics that showcases a Wonderful collection of over 450 plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture.

Museum of Classical Archaeology

Museum of Classical Archaeology History

One of the eight museums affiliated to the university, this one is primarily concerned with artefacts relating to Classical Greece and Rome, both ancient and early modern replicas. It was formerly housed on a site in Little St Mary’s Lane across the river, but outgrew its original location in the 1970s. It’s run by the Faculty of Classics, occupying a purpose-built location here on the Sidgwick Site. This area is home to the various humanities faculties of the university and is awash with students and academics during term time.

The museum hosts what is perhaps the leading collection of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture in the world, housed in the eponymous Cast Gallery. This presents the exhibits in chronological order so that you can study the evolution of the art form. The museum continues to expand a collection that includes casts of some of the most renowned examples of Greek and Roman statuary, including the vivid Peplos Kore (from the original found in Athens), the so-called Laocoön Group (from the Vatican Museums), and the Farnese Hercules that was rediscovered in Rome in the 16th century. These casts offer a unique perspective on the familiar forms of ancient sculpture and the classical view of the human body.

The Museum's Unique Collections

The Museum of Classical Archaeology stands out not just for its age-old artifacts but also for its 19th-century replicas of ancient artifacts. These replicas provide a bridge between the ancient world and more recent historical periods, offering insights into how the classical past was viewed and interpreted in more modern times.

Classical Archaeology: A Deeper Dive

Classical Archaeology is more than just the study of ancient artifacts. It delves deep into the material and visual cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, offering a comprehensive understanding of these civilizations. The museum's foundation in 1884 is a testament to the importance of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture during the late 19th century. However, as the field evolved, so did its focus, expanding to encompass a broader range of material evidence.

The Cast Gallery: A Journey Through Time

The Cast Gallery, with its vast collection of over 450 plaster casts, is like a time machine. Some of these casts have been with the museum since its early days, while others are more recent additions. Together, they paint a vivid picture of the artistic evolution of ancient Greece and Rome.

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