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Why re-display a gallery?

The Greece & Rome Gallery in 1968 Fitzwilliam Museum, Founder’s  ArchiveThe gallery of Greece and Rome has been the home of the Fitzwilliam’s antiquities collection since the museum first opened in 1848. Over the years the display has often been rearranged to accommodate a growing collection and structural changes to the museum building, as well as the changing attitudes of the Museum directors and curators.

This 2010 refurbishment was the first time the gallery display has been substantially changed since the 1960s. In the decades since then the questions being asked about the ancient world have changed radically, and the gallery information about the objects needed updating. There have also been huge advances in museum security and environmental control, lighting and the design of object-mounts and showcases. In addition, conservation techniques have developed and attitudes to restoration have changed, so the safety of the objects as well as the aesthetics of the gallery were concerns. The refurbishment has used these technical, academic and design advances to create an modern display of the Greek and Roman collection within the original 19th century architecture of the gallery.


The AHRC project: Greece and Rome at the Fitzwilliam Museum

The 2010 refurbishment was about more than just updating the gallery display. It formed part of a wider project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council using an award specifically designed to maximise the impact of scholarly research in the arts and humanities through developing partnerships between museums and university departments. 

Conservator examining a red-figure amphoraThe Fitzwilliam project, which ran from 2008 to 2011, created a partnership between members of the Department of Antiquities, principally Lucilla Burn and Julie Dawson, and three members of the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge, Mary Beard, Robin Osborne and Carrie Vout. It also provided funding to employ two Research Associates for the project, a conservator, Christina Rozeik, and a classical archaeologist, Kate Cooper. The project aimed to incorporate the latest research into the history, society, archaeology and conservation of the Greek and Roman world into the new gallery display, and the information provided both in the gallery and online.

The project team decided that one of the most accessible way to present these advances in research through the gallery display itself was to highlight the different people who had shaped the life of each ancient artefact:

  • the craftsman who made it
  • the ancient customers who bought and used each object, and who left them to be discovered centuries later
  • the ‘modern’ excavator who found the object and the collector who owned it, restored it, or brought it to the Museum
  • the conservators and curators who have shaped the appearance of each object and the way it was displayed since it came into the Museum