I recently had the great pleasure of showing lecturers from the University’s Classics department round the Museum’s archaeology store. This is part of an initiative designed to raise the profile of the Manchester Museum collection and to encourage students in the various schools and departments of the university to make greater use of objects in their studies. What better way to stimulate interest amongst students than by engaging the lecturers?
In this I was not disappointed. The other morning I showed a party of lecturers from Classics some Greco-Roman material that had came off display last year and other items in the store. It was great to see lecturers getting excited about objects in the collection. Here was a lamp depicting the Magna Mater. There was an apparently otherwise unknown figurine of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates from Egypt in our metals store. Roslynne Bell later sent me a picture of a figurine of a tragic actor that was somewhat similar to the piece we have but these things must be as rare as hen’s teeth. It looks as though a mould was made from it to sell casts in the Museum shop years ago.
Another lecturer is working on medicine in the ancient world and is interested in votive offerings, of which we have examples of a model foot and no less than two wombs. Someone else expressed interest in slingshot and arrowheads. We have some interesting examples with decoration and one with a Greek inscription that may be from the city of Kamiros on the island of Rhodes. Another lecturer questioned the attribution of a particular ancient Greek pot to a particular painter.
Seeing their reactions to the objects was great and there are now a number of suggestions for developing more interaction between the department and the Museum’s Greek and Roman collection. It is a simple thing to do to open up the store when there is a conference so that delegates can see some of the objects in the collection and share their expertise about them.
All this bodes well for the future. We have already had discussions about setting up an ancient wargaming club based on the availability of relatively cheap, high quality and historically accurate plastic figurines. We don’t have the funding to introduce this straightaway but it would be another way of stimulating interest in the ancient world. My thanks to Roslynne Bell for supplying photographs of the visit.