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Faculty of Classics

black and white photograph of plaster casts in old museum interior

The Museum of Classical Archaeology was founded in 1884. In 1879, Art and Archaeology had become part of the Classics degree at Cambridge – and casts were soon used to illustrate the lectures. As a result, the Museum became a University of Cambridge Museum. From its very inception, the Museum was a teaching institution and, indeed, by the terms of its foundation, the Museum is a teaching tool for students first and foremost.


black and white photograph of museum interior with plaster casts

Inside the old 'Ark'


But the origins of the cast collection are as intimately bound with the history of collecting as they are with teaching. The earliest casts in the collection, including the Farnese Hercules, were donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum in the course of the nineteenth century – they had a life in the private houses of wealthy donors long before they were part of the Museum of Classical Archaeology.

The man responsible for swelling the number of casts with specially-selected examples of Greek and Roman sculpture was Sidney Colvin, the first director of the Fitzwilliam. In particular, he made sure to include some of the newest archaeological discoveries among his purchases – the Nike of Paionios, for instance, was purchased within six months of her excavation. The plaster casts, in other words, were part of a process through which new finds were disseminated.


black and white image of casts on a lecture theatre stage

Casts used in lectures in the 'Ark'


The Museum was originally housed in a building belonging to Peterhouse College in Little St Mary's Lane, known affectionately as 'The Ark'. This building, however, was only leased for one hundred years from the college – and, as the end of the lease fast approached, a new home for the casts had to be sought. In 1983, the casts moved into their present home, a purpose-built Cast Gallery in the Faculty of Classics on Sidgwick Avenue. For the first time, the Museum of Classical Archaeology and the Faculty were united under the same roof.

Today, the casts are still a teaching collection and, during university term-time, undergraduate supervisions on a broad range of classical subjects take place nearly every day. But the Museum is also open to the general public and now welcomes large numbers of school groups, families and general visitors through its doors.

Every cast tells two stories.
One ancient. One modern.

Admission is free.


Just drop in: no need to book


Lift out of order

Our lift is currently out of order which means we are not able to provide step-free access at present.


Opening hours

Tues-Fri: 10am-5pm
Sat (univ. term-time only): 10am-1pm
Sun and Monday: Closed

Closed on Bank Holidays


Special Opening: Saturday 25 May 10-5pm

We will be open all day on Saturday 25 May to support the performance of Oedipus Tyrannus at the ADC. To request a group booking, please use our online booking form.


Saturday Opening

Please note: We are open on Saturdays only during University of Cambridge term time.

We are currently open on Saturdays until Saturday 8 June, inclusive.


Visit us

Museum of Classical Archaeology
Faculty of Classics
Sidgwick Avenue

We do not have an entrance on the road. Find us inside the Sidgwick Site.


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Tel. +44 (0)1223 330402


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Copyright statement

All images and material on our websites are ©Museum of Classical Archaeology, University of Cambridge unless otherwise stated. If you would like to reproduce our images, you can now do so for non-commercial use at no charge.

See also our Copyright Notice and Take Down Policy.