While most students know there is a mummy on campus, fewer know about what else can be found in the Ancient World Gallery in North Court. The gallery includes collections of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman artifacts, as well as modern reproductions.
Parts of the collection originated as donations to the Museum of Richmond College in the late 19th century. Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, a Richmond College professor, acquired the mummy and coffin of Ti-Ameny-Net in the late 19th century, and he first displayed them in the Museum of Richmond College in 1876. After the campus was moved in 1914, the collection was scattered, and the mummy was passed around to a few places, including the Biology Museum in Maryland Hall and a professor’s living room. In the 1970s, Stuart Wheeler, a professor in the department of classical studies, gathered the artifacts in North Court and in 1980 opened the Ancient World Gallery.
While the mummy might be the most well-known piece, Elizabeth Baughan, classical studies professor and curator of the Ancient World Gallery, said there were plenty of other reasons for students to stop in. “Many students visit the gallery only to view the mummy, but there is so much more to see there — her elaborately painted coffin, other Egyptian tomb offerings, Greek and Roman pottery, Roman oil lamps, antique books, etc.,” Baughan said.
The gallery was also renovated last year, and now shows a video of x-rays, CT-scans, and a digital reconstruction of the mummy Ti-Ameny-Net.
Baughan said her favorite piece was not related to the mummy, but rather was a small Late Classical wine pitcher that was likely from South Italy. “It is a rather unassuming piece, not of fine fabric or elaborately decorated,” Baughan said. “But there is a place where one can get very close to the craftsman who made it some 2400 years ago: the painted bands around the neck are smudged with a fingerprint, where the maker pinched the mouth of the pitcher before firing it.” It is this closeness to the ancient world that is found throughout the gallery, and helps bring the learning experience to life.
The gallery is currently near full capacity, and the department does not want to support the destruction and looting of archaeological sites, Baughan said. Therefore, the gallery will not accept any pieces without documentation prior to 1970 (the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property) or acquire artifacts from the antiquities market.
Baughan pointed out the gallery could acquire more replicas if funding and space would allow. “These are great teaching tools because they can actually be handled by students,” Baughan said. “We hope one day to have a complete symposium set that can be used to reenact an ancient Greek banquet.”
The Ancient World Gallery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is found in North Court room 208.
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