Cambridge returns Greeks and Romans to limelight

Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:05am EST
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By Paul Casciato

CAMBRIDGE (Reuters Life!) - Dionysian excess, righteous indignation turned to ridicule and the luxurious artifacts of ancient Greece and Rome are back on show after a makeover at Cambridge University's Fitzwilliam Museum.

The Fitzwilliam's Greek and Roman gallery has had a 950,000-pound ($1.52 million) renovation to highlight the stories of and behind the lavish pots, statuary, ornate coffins, helmets and jewelry of the great civilizations which formed the foundations of the modern Western world.

Curator Lucilla Burn told Reuters that the intention of the two-year refurbishment -- carried out in conjunction with academics from the university's Classics department -- was to update the collection and make it more accessible.

"It was last done in the 1960s and it was looking very tired," said the former British Museum curator.

The work was done with half an eye on the massive overhaul at Oxford University's Ashmolean museum and tempered by Burn's years of experience as curator in the British Museum's Greek and Roman Department.

Laid out in a timeline that takes the visitor around the collection from the height of ancient Greece to the declining years of the Roman empire, the exhibition brings to life the artifacts, the every day lives of the ancients and the stories of the people who brought these exhibits back to Britain.

Cambridge Classics professor Mary Beard, who was part of the team advising on the Fitzwilliam renovation, said the updated exhibition now informs and involves visitors.