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Title: Ancient narratives in the modern museum : interpreting classical archaeology in British museums
Author: Baker, Abigail
ISNI:       0000 0004 5367 1887
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis considers how the stories preserved in Greek and Roman texts have been used in British museums from the early nineteenth century to the present. It explores the tendency to prioritise textual over visual information which is easy to overlook when dealing with object-based institutions. It demonstrates the pervasive effect that ancient texts and the narratives they convey have had on the way museums think about individual objects, wider history and their own role as public institutions. A series of case studies offer snapshots of the relationship between object and text at different times and places: how ancient texts were used to articulate a political and public role for the Elgin marbles; how public and academic interest in myth inspired innovative museum interpretation in the work of Charles Newton, Jane Harrison, Heinrich Schliemann and Arthur Evans; how collecting at the Fitzwilliam museum demonstrates the difficulties of escaping ancient narratives, even for those committed to object-based approaches; and how an exhibition of Greek Art in World War Two used ancient images and texts alongside each other in ways that idealised Greek art and freedom, while also revealing unease about the relationship between image and text in ancient sources. By looking at these through broader intellectual and social themes it develops a history with continuity as well as contrasts. Several of the case studies visit completely new ground for the history of museums, but even the most familiar moments in collecting history can be understood in new ways through an awareness of how deeply our understanding of ancient objects has been shaped by ancient narratives. I build on contemporary interest in the active role of museums in constituting our understanding of the past by treating the museum as a site of textual reception and an active participant in a tradition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available