WHAT’s IT LIKE? Episode 5: Prof. Amy Smith –- A Specialist in Art History, Ancient Greek Ceramics & Classical Antiquities.

Interviewee: Prof. Amy Smith. Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 18th June 2021

Welcome to the Classic Department’s series What’s it Like? During these episodes staff, volunteers and students who specialise in all fields of Classics, Archaeology and Museums, will share with you the realities of their jobs. What to be a Linguist? Museum Curator? Archaeologist? Lecturer? Well Travelled Researcher? A Barrier-Breaker? Have No Idea? Then read on!

This week: Prof. Amy Smith

A Specialist in Art History, Ancient Greek Ceramics & Classical Antiquities.

 

 

Name: Prof. Amy Smith.
Area of Specialism: I am a classical archaeologist, with a particular interest in: ancient Greek ceramics; ancient iconography; digital classics; ancient religion & politics; museology; reception of Classical antiquities.
Topics of Interest: All of the above, plus female goddesses (esp. Athena, Aphrodite), heroes (esp. Herakles); red-figure painters (esp. the Pan Painter); sensory archaeology (esp. music); materiality.
Job Title: Professor of Classical Archaeology; Joint Head of the Department of Classics; Curator of the Ure Museum.
Job Responsibilities:

Professor of Classical Archaeology: Teach and research Classical archaeology & related subjects (e.g. ancient Greek language, Greek history); encourage, recruit (i.e. find funding for) & supervise postdocs (currently Signe Barfoed, on a Norwegian Research Council Grant) & PhD students. I get a two new PhD students next year, namely Summer Courts, working on ‘The Archaeology of Hidden Identity’ & Caitlin Laurence, working on ‘Statistical and Digital analysis of 6th-4th c. BC Attic pottery found in Anatolia’; engage with the worldwide community of scholars incl. external examining undergrads (currently at KCL) & postgrads (currently external examiner to Leeds PhD); serving on advisory boards & committees (e.g. editorial board for New Classicists & Claros); outreach to schools & other national audiences); & much else!

Joint Head of Department: I share this job with Barbara Goff (which is a godsend) because both of us have other big administrative jobs that we can’t really get rid of—she’s Departmental Director of Teaching & Learning; I’m Curator of the Ure; we divided it along lines that fit with those roles. So while she does the student-facing things I do the outreach & research, incl. postgraduates for the most part. That entails amongst other things organising and hosting our department’s online research seminars, which we’re now (with the speakers’ permission) beginning to share on our Department’s YouTube account. This term I’ve been working with marketing partners on devising a new department website: fun finding pictures & stories but challenging like so many such projects that come from ‘above’ because fitting into the dreaded ‘template’ stifles our creativity.

Curator of the Ure Museum: Of all of my jobs this is the one that is most variable from day to day, week to week, year to year. I’ve been doing it for nearly 21 years now, during which time we’ve had major analogue and digital projects, like redesigning the Ure’s learning environment (i.e. restyling the place) in 2004-5, creating our own bespoke database (https://uremuseum.org/cgi-bin/ure/uredb.cgi), redesigning (twice) & maintaining our museum website, temporary exhibitions, e.g. our upcoming Spotlight Loan from the British Museum: ‘Troy: Beauty and Heroism’ (21 September-12 December 2021; already twice postponed!). Normal day-to-day stuff includes answering scholarly requests about visiting, studying & using our artefacts & archives for research; representing the Ure Museum at network meetings, conferences, etc.; supervising & supporting but not line-managing two part-time members of staff—Jayne Holly (Assistant Curator) & Claudina Romero Mayorga (Education Officer)—and with them recruiting & supervising (& seeking funding for) interns, volunteers, & other helpers; chivvying members of the department staff to help us out from time to time; seeking small and large pots of money to do pretty much everything; and running our own research activities including seminars etc. We have no internal funding, except for staff, & no external funding unless we go out & find it, so everything is on a shoestring, which means we’re very good at putting interns & volunteers to good use (e.g. on our Museum in a box projects & a forthcoming lesson in a box on democracy with Study Higher).

Introduction

I was born in Libya & my dad took credit for my becoming an archaeologist because he took my mum to Leptis Magna when she was pregnant. I think it more likely that my childhood in London inspired me: museums were free, we lived near them, & I ducked into them when it was raining! My English teacher in preparatory school loved the painter J.M.W. Turner so she developed my art historical interests, while my history teacher in secondary school told us all about Minoan civilisations! Shortly after that, I visited Corfu, which I still remember as my favourite childhood holiday (I was already a Gerald Durrell fan). Archaeology finally won out in university when I was lucky enough to be taught Greek mythology by a bronze age archaeologist (Jerry Rutter at Dartmouth). Before I pursued postgraduate studies at Yale, I took a detour into publishing & after a few years as Assistant Editor of the American Journal of Archaeology (a brilliant opportunity, and fun to live in Boston) I realised that I enjoyed the content of the articles slightly more than fiddling with the layout, proofreading etc. At Yale I got to work with Curator Susan Matheson at the Yale Art Gallery & was torn whether to pursue a university or museum career. So when Reading interviewed me in the Ure Museum I jumped at the chance to combine both.

I am very lucky to have a job doing lots of things I love: teaching, helping younger people develop skills, both in the classroom & in the museum, research & much else. Being an archaeologist I am genuinely interdisciplinary: (1) I like how a combination of sources—material culture, ancient texts, scientific analysis, etc.—help us piece it all together; (2) I don’t have to restrict myself to one time period, culture group, or place, because of course cultures have always bumped shoulders with each other and (3) the more I study antiquity the more I realise the importance of intellectual history, that is, understanding how and why our society has inherited perspectives gained from other cultures & societies that have responded to the ‘Classics’ since antiquity

What is your daily life really like?

Working from home during lockdown gives me more of a pattern than I used to have, but either way, I tend to wake up early, take a swim or a run or both, eat a big breakfast (I keep chickens!) and then settle down to my laptop, reading, answering and/or deleting the tonnes of emails I receive. This is all interspersed with meetings & classes in term time, checking my schedule for upcoming deadlines for grant applications, presentations or papers I’ve promised to give, references I need to write, teaching sessions to prepare and the associated marking. Summer term, which is never-ending in times of COVID19, is dominated by marking. If the sun is shining, I might try to take a midday break in the garden or take a walk/cycle ride to an errand, just to get me out of the house. For research, (that I prefer to do in a library), I try to block off time either a whole day or at least a whole afternoon to let me get in the right mindset, but there’s never enough time for research, especially during term time. If I’m doing research or writing at home sometimes a quiet evening might give me the chance to focus without noticing the time passing. I’m a big multitasker so I might cook at the same time (I’m a firm believer in slow cooking, including sourdough bread). Now that we’re allowed into the Oxford libraries again I’m booking as much time as I can—including weekends—to research there.

The Museum work is interspersed throughout my Professor work and often indistinguishable from it, visavis research. A lot of people both within & beyond the University treat me like I’m either Curator or Professor or Head of Department or even web editor, i.e. like I’ve only got one job! Since the first lockdown, I’ve had had weekly meetings with my Ure colleagues so that we can touch base with each other on our many initiatives & what the various interns/volunteers are doing with/for us. In many ways, my curatorial work is my most important ‘teaching’. I’m very proud of the huge number of assistant curators, interns & volunteers we’ve had in the Ure over the years: some have gone on to get their MAs or PhDs & become successful curators or other museum professionals, teachers, lecturers, researchers, editors, filmmakers. I’m just as proud of the others who have developed skills from time spent in museums & academia, such as event planning and marketing.

What is the best part of your job?

The best thing about my job is that no two days or weeks or years are the same: I have worked in lots of different & very wonderful places, with amazing & interesting people.  I have flexibility with my schedule, although—especially nowadays—our work is never done (and this is the worst part). Like most academics, I do maybe an average of 1.5 x more hours than my employers think.

Why do you think your specialism is important?

My work is important for 3 big reasons.
(1) Teaching, (i.e. helping young people learn about their world & how they might contribute to it), is an essential thing & a great privilege.
(2) We need to learn from the past! Archaeology helps us fill in the gaps provided by the biased texts, giving us perhaps a more honest glimpse at real people. To be fair, as an art historical archaeologist I tend to look at the stuff that richer people used, yet it still helps everyone to understand how it has been used, seen & understood by humble people too.
(3) Helping audiences young and old, academic & general to engage with museum content is a brilliant way to bring together teaching, learning about the past, & developing peoples’ interpretative confidence. Anyone can have a good and inspiring interpretation of an artefact that contributes to our understanding of (pre)history. In these three ways, I think I can, and do, make a difference.

 If you didn’t have your current job, what else could you apply your skills to?

If you’ve read this far you’ll know that I’ve dabbled in editorial & museum work; I was taught my proofreading skills when I worked as a paralegal intern! So I’m sure I could apply myself to all of those tasks, ‘tho my best friend in high school & I dreamed of opening a bakery, & I sometimes think that I might enjoy running a pub or café on the river.

Did you always want to be what you are today?

No, only since I watched Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Actually, that film gave me the excuse to study ‘Classical Archaeology’ as an undergraduate, but throughout that degree, my MA, MPhil & PhD, I just thought I’d push it as far as I could (& as long as I could get funding for my studies—see below). Imagine my surprise when I actually got a job (at Tufts University) & started to think I might actually become a Classical Archaeologist!

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I hope to be a Professor, still at Reading (perfectly situated between London & Oxford, with excellent access to airports), but perhaps not Joint Head of Department anymore. I hope that I’d have had the chance to visit China (I was scheduled to go there in March 2020!) & to take up my Visiting Professorship at University of Queensland (postponed since Autumn 2020) & much more in terms of travel to collections, conferences, etc. If universities go belly up then I’d like to be sailing around the world.

 What 3 tips would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar path?

Don’t pursue academia unless you’re doing it for the knowledge & fun; that is, don’t just do it for the career/job because that might not ever happen. So keep your eyes opened for other opportunities & don’t be afraid to jump out of your comfort zone. The best advice (which I’d like to pass on) was from a friend of a friend in the finance office at Boston University. She said ‘don’t bother with a PhD unless you get a fellowship’. The logic, that if you don’t rise to the top of the pile (of students) at that stage then it will be hard for you to rise to the top later in your career, is unfortunately true. That said, whatever you choose to do, put your all into it, make it work, and have fun: your own enjoyment will enthuse others & make everyone (including yourself) enjoy it that much more.

What to know more?

Head over to the Ure Museum for our new exhibition on Troy or read about the fascinating foot vase at the top of this article here.

New Events Coming Up! (May 6th-18th 2021)

Edit: Bunny Waring
Date: 5th May 2021.

Our Professors are always up to something interesting and here are some exciting events that you can all join in with!

Prof. Amy Smith (Co-Head of Department and Curator of the Ure Museum) will be speaking to The Art of Fragments Network about Museums and the Heritage Sector here:

What do you get if you cross cutting edge research in the ancient world with creative talent?

Join us for this online series of events to find out.

Free but booking essential

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-art-of-fragments-conversations-with-academics-and-artists-tickets-152516048607?ref=estw

 

The Art of Fragments network is pleased to host a series of panel discussions showcasing artistic projects inspired by academic ideas. For each session we’ll be beginning with a panel featuring artists and academics who have been involved in innovative projects inspired by fragmentation. This will be followed by a Q&A with a speaker with experience in the creative industry, who’ll be able to share their tips on how to make projects happen.

The projects featured are all inspired by fragments from the ancient world, and the form of fragmentation.

Session 1: Wednesday 12th May, 11am-1pm (UK time).

Museums and the heritage sector

Featuring poet Josephine Balmer, Dr Charlotte Parkyns (University of Notre Dame), Professor Amy Smith (University of Reading), Dr Sonya Nevin (Panoply Vase Animation Project)

Q&A with Sarah Golding (independent arts producer)

Session 2: Tuesday 18th May, 4pm-6pm (UK time).

Literature

Featuring novelist Yann Martel and poet Lesley Saunders

Q&A with Tom Chivers (Director of publisher and production company Penned in the Margins)

More details on the speakers and their projects can be found on the Eventbrite page. There will be opportunities for small-group informal discussion and networking between and after the sessions.

A third session is planned for the final week of May: details to follow (and will be published on the Eventbrite page).

The organisers would like to thank the British Academy for their kind support

Prof. Tim Duff (Greek History and Literature) will be speaking at the Academy of Athens about [Self-]Praise & [Self]-Blame in Ancient Literature here:

 

The Research Centre for Greek and Latin Literature of the Academy of Athens is delighted to invite you to the 6th online lecture of its 2020-2021 Seminar ([Self-]Praise & [Self]-Blame in Ancient Literature).

Timothy Duff (Professor of Greek, University of Reading), Praise and Blame in Plutarch’s Lives
Thursday, May 6, 5-7pm (EEST, Athens)

Plutarch’s Lives are famously moralistic. We might expect therefore that explicit narratorial praise and blame of the subjects would be common, and that readers would be left in no doubt as to the kind of lessons they should learn. In fact, things are a good deal more complicated. In this paper I will construct a typology of praise and blame in the Lives and explore the ways in which the text does or does not guide the audience’s response to the subjects of the Lives. I will argue that Plutarch constructs his readers not as passive recipients expecting instruction but as actively and critically engaged.

To receive the link to the Zoom meeting, please fill out the form here: https://bit.ly/2QUd2U2

For any questions please contact the organiser (epapadodima@academyofathens.gr).

Summer Seminar Series 2021

Author: Amy Smith & Bunny Waring. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 26th April 2021.

Come one, come all! After a short break, the Classics Department is ready to entertain and educate you all with a new series of free, online seminars.
Join us weekly on Wednesdays at 4pm for our Summer Seminar Series which focuses on the theme ‘Making Classics Better’. In this accessible and inclusive online environment, we welcome a stellar group of speakers from as close as Roehampton and as far as Melbourne to address issues that hamper inclusivity in Classics and/or explore means of promoting diversity in the study of antiquity more broadly.

This theme relates to the work of many of our colleagues and follows on from a successful series of workshops on Inclusive Classics co-organised by our Joint-Head of Department, Prof. Barbara Goff (see out 2020 blog post: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/classics-at-reading/page/3/.

Below is the full programme and you can join us—for free—by clicking on our events page: https://www.facebook.com/UoRClassics/events/

28 April: What makes classical myth an ideal topic for autistic children? – Susan Deacy (Roehampton)

5 May: Covid+Collapse – Louise Hitchcock (Melbourne)

12 May: Collaboration in UK Classics Education: Reflecting on Ambitions and Realities – Arlene Holmes-Henderson (KCL)

19 May: Disability Studies and the Classical Body: The Forgotten Other – Ellen Adams (KCL)

26 May: Subverting the Classics? White Feminism and Reception Studies – Holly Ranger (SAS)

2 June: TBA – Patrice Rankine (Richmond)

Seminar Series – Heroic Beauty: Beautiful Heroism.

Author: Prof. Amy Smith.
Date: 15th January 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Pottery black-figured neck-amphora depicting Achilles and Hector with gods 520BC-500BC (c) Trustees of the British Museum.

Heroic Beauty: Beautiful Heroism

The Department of Classics at Reading is delighted to present an online seminar series to accompany the forthcoming exhibition Troy: Beauty and Heroism, a British Museum spotlight loan at the Ure Museum. While the launch of the exhibition has been postponed, with this series of presentations we will begin to explore the themes of heroism and beauty and their interconnectedness throughout antiquity, particularly in relation to the epic tradition and its reception. Interested individuals are welcome to join us online for this series of presentations from Reading Classics’ own scholars, as well as some special guests, via Teams on Wednesdays from 27 January to 25 March at 4pm (link below).

27th January 2021 – Prof. Ian Rutherford (University of Reading) Beauty, Proportion and the Canon: What Did the Greeks Borrow From Egypt?

3rd February 2021 – Prof. Amy Smith (University of Reading) Beauty & Heroism in the Amazonomachy.

10th February 2021 – Dr. Claudina Romero Mayorga (University of Reading) Who’s the Fairest of Them All? The Judgement of Paris in Etruscan Mirrors.

17th February 2021 – Prof. Barbara Goff (University of Reading) Helens: Speeches and Silences.

24th February 2021 – Dr. Signe Barfoed (University of Oslo/Reading) The White Teeth of a Boar of Gleaming Tusks: Boar-hunt and Warrior Ethos in Homer’s world.

3rd March 2021 – Dr. Oliver Baldwin (University of Reading) Penelope: Inward and Outward Beauty.

10th March 2021 – Dr. James Lloyd-Jones (University of Reading) Alexander the Great and the Music of Paris and Achilles.

17th March 2021 – Dr. Sonya Nevin (Panoply/University of Roehampton) Beauty and Heroism in Panoply’s Our Mythical Childhood Animations.

25the March 2021 – Prof. Sophia Papaioannou (University of Athens) The Charming Artistry of Competitive Performance in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca 19.

For more information or to book for this online seminar series please contact Professor Amy C. Smith, Curator of the Ure Museum, at a.c.smith@reading.ac.uk.

Microsoft Teams meeting

Join on your computer or mobile app Click here to join the meeting

Or call in (audio only) +44 20 3443 6294,,199742746# United Kingdom, London

Phone Conference ID: 199 742 746#

Fully Funded PhD studentship – The Archaeology of Hidden Identity: The Case of a Female Burial from Lowbury Hill. 

We would like to bring to your attention a fully-funded PhD studentship:

The Archaeology of Hidden Identity: The Case of a Female Burial from Lowbury Hill 

Application deadline: Monday 25th January 2021 

 

 

This multidisciplinary project seeks to re-interpret the remains of a woman discovered in the wall of the Romano-British temple found at Lowbury Hill in 1913-14. The original interpretation of her role as a ‘foundation’ deposit, then as a body inserted in a ‘robber’ trench, has been brought into question by a 1990s radio-carbon analysis that contextualised her within the early medieval period (c 550-650 CE). The nearly complete female skeleton was displayed by the early 1920s at University College Reading’s Museum of Archaeology and History, alongside the male Anglo-Saxon warrior found in the adjacent barrow. We seek an understanding of her deposition and relation to both the Romano-British temple and Anglo-Saxon barrow at Lowbury Hill. Her case is important not only for History and Archaeology but also in Gender Studies, regarding both her role in the Roman and/or Anglo-Saxon periods and her later history as a ‘forgotten women’ overlooked in favour of her more ‘decorated’ male ‘neighbour’. 

This studentship is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council through the South, West & Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW DTP). It is co-supervised by Prof. Amy C. Smith, University of Reading and Dr Sophie Beckett, Cranfield University in partnership with Angie Bolton, Oxfordshire Museums Service. 

For details on this fully funded Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) please visit:https://www.sww-ahdtp.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/CDA-7-Lowbury-Hill.Further-Details.pdf 

Find out more about the application and the studentship here: https://www.sww-ahdtp.ac.uk/prospective-students/apply/collaborative-doctoral-award-projects-2021/ 

Start your application here: https://www.sww-ahdtp.ac.uk/prospective-students/apply/ 

DTP Hub

The South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW DTP)

SWWDTP Twitter | SWWDTP Facebook |SWWDTP LinkedIn

Ure researchers show Cyprus in 3D

Through the “Cyprus: 3D” project Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology researchers are highlighting the Ure’s Cypriot holdings and investigation their research and pedagogical value. From among its 100+ artefacts from this Mediterranean island, 19 terracotta figurines of the Kamelarga style from Kition have been chosen for this project. The figurines, which date from the Cypro-Archaic period (750-480 BC), represent worshipers holding food, animals, shields and musical instruments. Such figurines have been interpretedTraditionally as ex-votos, but the loss of their archaeological context leaves many questions yet to be answered.

We captured these figurines through photogrammetry to get virtual 3D models, which we later edited and 3D printed. We printed them in different textures, sizes and colours, as some of the original terracottas were found fragmented, with and without traces of paint, etc. Our goal was to encourage the handling of these replicas and to analyse our audience’s reactions. Cyprus: 3D was the common thread throughout our calendar of educational activities for 2018-2019: we have incorporated our figurines in many events to promote the collection as part of our outreach programme and audience development, in which older teenagers and families had the chance to play with our prints as a way to have a better understanding of Cypriot ancient culture. We encouraged responses from the participants with questions about what the figures looked like, who they might represent, what genders they might reflect, what each figure was carrying, with follow-on questions such as why they might be carrying these attributes.

Claudina Romero Mayorga

Learners from different backgrounds, ages and learning abilities engaged with our resources in similar ways: they overlooked the printing quality in some of the replicas and embraced the opportunity to touch and “play” with copies of fragile artefacts that are usually safeguarded inside our cases. The sense of touch provide us with a “tactile reality”, sensations capable of generating mental images that are important for communication, aesthetics and concept formation. Audience interpretations of the artefacts —in terms of gender, status, attributes, etc.—largely matching the theories of the excavators and scholars that have been studying Cypriot material for decades. Learners “played” with the replicas, allowing us to create different slow-motion animations that tried to evoke ancient rituals and behavioural patterns from a civilisation now long gone. With these animations #TheVotives, our team of Cypriote musicians, has developed quite a following on twitter.

 

[i] Calendar of activities in a slide

Athens Study Trip 2019

I could not have hoped for a more fulfilling way to round off my Classics degree at Reading than participating in a study trip to Greece – one could almost call it a Classics student’s ‘pilgrimage’. I first visited Athens over a decade ago when my interests in the ancient world were just beginning and I remember being awed by its incredible landscape and architecture. I was thrilled therefore to finally have the opportunity to return to the city and appreciate its sites from a more informed perspective, as well as experience other places that were completely new to me. The whole expedition was enhanced greatly by the company of an enthusiastic cohort of fellow students and the ever-illuminating insights of Professor Amy Smith and her assistant James Lloyd.

On disembarking at Eleftherios Venizelos Airport, we were immediately struck by the glorious Athenian sunshine, which continued to blaze down on us throughout our stay. We then boarded a characterful, vibrantly purple coach that conveyed us to the British School at Athens (BSA), with the local driver offering us his essential tips on Modern Greek along the way. Having unpacked, we soon set off on our first excursion: Lykavittos hill (closely situated to the BSA), from the summit of which we experienced the most spectacular views of the city and whetted our cultural appetites for all that lay ahead. We also worked up appetites of a more gastronomic nature from all the walking, winding up the day by sharing a meal together in true Greek fashion at a local restaurant, getting to know each other better and sampling a wide range of traditional dishes – many of which were savoured again later in the week!

Each day’s schedule was tightly packed with visits to ancient sites and museums, and I could not possibly do everything justice in a single blog post. Yet I shall at least mention a few of my personal highlights. Firstly, no trip to Athens would be complete without journeying up to the famed Acropolis. It was fantastic to explore not only the iconic buildings on its upper surface, but also both the north slope, featuring some important caves and sanctuaries, and the sites to the south: after writing my final-year dissertation on Sophocles, I could hardly leave without paying homage to the Theatre of Dionysos, and James Lloyd even treated us here to an impromptu performance of an ancient Greek song. Another of my favourite attractions was the Temple of Hephaistos, beautifully situated in the Agora and amazingly well preserved. Further sites visited were the Kerameikos, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Roman Forum and Hadrian’s Library.

Of the museums, I was especially excited to visit the Acropolis Museum which was still being built during my previous trip. It certainly did not fail to impress. Its transparent walls and ideal location enabled us to look directly across at the Acropolis itself while admiring the displays, and so more easily envision everything in authentic context. One of the museum archaeologists, Dr Fiorentina Frangopoulou, helped us to understand the importance of the museum to the modern Greeks. In addition to the splendid array of statues and artefacts, I was particularly charmed by the imaginative lego reconstruction of the Acropolis on the second floor! The National Archeological Museum was also full of fascinating objects, including the famous ‘Mask of Agamemnon’ discovered by Heinrich Schliemann at Mycenae. Among my personal favourites were a Cycladic harper figurine lost in song, an ancient piggy bank and a vase depicting a musical goose! In addition, I enjoyed the smaller yet equally absorbing Cycladic and Numismatic Museums.

We were fortunate to spend one of our days in Corinth, which included the highlight of the whole trip for me: visiting Acrocorinth, an enormous rock towering above the ancient city, rivalling even the Athenian Acropolis in its magnitude. Although most of the ruins at the top date from later, medieval times, the views it offers of the surrounding mountains, farmland and sea are simply breathtaking, giving the modern traveller a sense of how Greece would have appeared to its ancient inhabitants. Beautiful wildflowers, bees, butterflies and birdsong added magic to the landscape. On descending, we received excellent tours both of ancient Corinth and of its museum, from Drs Christopher Pfaff and Ioulia Tzonou of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Dr Tzonou even gave us a hands-on experience of artefacts, including a stone foot dedicated to Asklepios, the god of healing, and some lead curse tablets, which thankfully cast no calamities upon our trip! While journeying back to Athens, we had the chance to stop off at the site of the Isthmian games and also spotted the historic islands of Salamis and Aegina from the coach.

In addition to scheduled group outings, we had some free time to spend on whatever stirred our own individual interests. I particularly appreciated the further stunning panoramas available from Philopappou Hill and the Areopagus (which I made sure to ascend via the steeper, ancient steps!), and it was also enjoyable just to wander round and take in the atmosphere of some of Athens’ more touristy areas such as Plaka, with its pretty winding streets and rows of shops. Above all, I loved being surrounded by Greek lettering wherever I went: I had great fun trying to decipher signs and inscriptions.

As a lover of the animal world, I could not conclude without mentioning the thirteen hoopoes I spotted during our stay (one of my favourite birds and very apt in terms of Greek mythology). We also fell in love with the numerous tortoises we found chilling out amid the ancient ruins, as well as the free-roaming dogs, cats and kittens which did their very best to distract us from our primary mission!

I cannot thank the Classics Department enough for giving me this wonderful opportunity at the end of my undergraduate journey, as well as the BSA for hosting us. I would certainly encourage other students to embark on future study trips (…though do be prepared to walk … a lot!).

Katherine Evans

Classics at UoR Doctoral Research Conference 2019

Classics was well represented yesterday at UoR’s annual Doctoral Research Conference, held on 19 June, in which Nathalie Choubineh (upper right) and Luca Ottonello (bottom left) competed. This annual event, open to all doctoral researchers and staff from across the University, showcases the diversity of doctoral research undertaken at the University of Reading. Nathalie, who has passed her viva, subject to minor corrections, in April of this year, presented her research poster on Kretike, an aspect of ancient Greek dance that featured in her PhD thesis, written under the supervision of Profs. Barbara Goff and Amy Smith. Luca, who is a part-time PhD candidate, competed in the research image competition, with his digital reconstruction of the Temple of Bel in the ancient city of Palmyra. Palmyra is a case study for his PhD thesis that he is writing under the supervision of Prof. Amy Smith and Dr. Ian Ewart (School of Construction Management and Engineering). As well as meeting new people who shared their interests, both of them found the conference a welcome opportunity to think about ways in which to communicate their research to broader audiences. The Classics Department is proud to now display Nathalie’s poster in its hallway in the Edith Morley building, while Luca’s photograph is displayed with some of his 3D prints of Palmyrene architecture in the Ure Museum.

Visiting researcher in the Ure Museum

On a visit to UoR Classics Department’s Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology in May 2018, Claudia Gamma, a PhD student at University of Lausanne (Switzerland), made some exciting discoveries. Archaeology often means having to work with fragments. Although (almost) whole pots definitely have their charm, tiny fragments provide some of the most exciting and rewarding challenges. During her short visit to the Ure Museum to study Boeotian classical pottery, Claudia investigated the fragments in storage alongside the displayed artefacts & found several dispersed fragments that joined eachother to reconstruct parts of whole pots. She even added some tiny fragments to an almost whole pot decorated with the black floral style of the classical period. She has made so many discoveries, in fact, that Claudia has decided to come back to visit us later this month to finish her work on our Boeotian vases that will contribute to her PhD thesis. We look forward to welcoming her back.

Winckelmann and Curiosity in the 18th-century Gentleman’s Library (Christ Church, Oxford)

On the glorious sunny evening of 29th June 2018, the Very Rev’d Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, welcomed Reading staff, interested scholars and other supporters to a champagne launch of Winckelmann and Curiosity in the 18th-century Gentleman’s Library, which explores the interaction and influence of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1758), the pioneer historian, art historian and archaeologist, on the occasion of the double anniversaries of his birth and death. (https://www.winckelmann-gesellschaft.com/en/winckelmann_anniversaries_20172018).


The event also served as a finale to a very successful one-day workshop on Ideals and Nations: New perspectives on the European reception of Winckelmann’s aesthetics, organised by Dr Fiona Gatty and Lucy Russell, under the auspices of the Department of Modern Languages, Oxford University. (This was the last of our triplet of workshops on the theme Under the Greek Sky: Taste and the Reception of Classical art from Winckelmann to the present, of which Spreading good taste: Winckelmann and the objects of disseminationin Reading on 15 September 2017—was the second). On this auspicious occasion Professor Alex Potts from University of Michigan, formerly Professor of the History of Art & Architecture at University, served as one of the workshops’ keynote speakers and proposed a toast to Winckelmann.

This exhibition is a collaboration between UoR Classics’ Ure Museum and Christ Church, co-curated by Reading’s Dr Katherine Harloe and Prof Amy Smith (Curator of the Ure Museum) and Christ Church’s Cristina Neagu (Keeper of Collections). The exhibition of vases, coins, gems (and casts thereof) and even a piece of painted Pompeian plaster kindly lent by the Reading Museum Service, is displayed in Christ Church’s recently restored upper library, which IS in fact the very embodiment of the collecting curiosity that Winckelmann influenced with his enthusiasm for the study of artefacts alongside texts. The library, completed in 1772, boasts large Venetian windows at either end, fittings that date mostly from the 1750s and plasterwork replicating some of the musical instruments once contained in the library.  

The exhibition is accompanied by a 134-page book, edited by Drs Harloe & Neagu & Prof Smith, with essays and a handlist of the objects on display, available from either Christ Church or the University of Reading for £10. We are grateful to the Friends of the University of Reading for funds in support of this publication.

The Ure Museum staff have planned a series of outreach activities in connection with the exhibition, starting with an activity for children and their carers: The Grand Tour: How Classical art went viral in England at Christ Church on Mondays—30th July, 6th and 13th August, from 11am to 1230 pm, in Christ Church Library (OX1 4EJ). Please contact ure.education@reading.ac.uk if you are interested in participating. Details of this and other related activities can be found on the ‘Winckelmania’ research blog—https://research.reading.ac.uk/winckelmania/.