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Museum History

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.

Museum of Classical Archaeology logo

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

Admission is free.

 

Reopening

We are currently closed.
We will reopen on Tuesday 8 December.

In line with the latest Government advice regarding Covid 19, the Museum of Classical Archaeology intends to reopen to members of the public on Tuesday 8 December at 11am. Our first priority is the safety of our staff and visitors. Tickets must be booked in advance and will be released on Tuesday 1 December.

 

Closure for essential maintenance

We will be closed on Friday 11 December and Monday 14 December for essential maintenance. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

 

Planned Christmas Closure

Pending reopening after lockdown, we will close for the Christmas break at 2pm on Friday 18th December 2020, and will reopen at 11am on Tuesday 5 January 2021.

 

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Opening hours

(From Tuesday 8 December)

Tues-Fri: 11am-2pm
Sat*: Closed
Sun and Monday: Closed

Closed on Bank Holidays

 

Saturday Opening

We are currently closed on Saturdays.

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

 

 

Visit us

Museum of Classical Archaeology
Faculty of Classics
Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge
CB3 9DA

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. Permission is required to reproduce our images.

See also our Copyright Notice and Take Down Policy.

 

 

University of Cambridge Museums

Arts Council England