The Museum of Ancient History

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The Museum of Ancient History

UCD Classical Museum, School of Classics, University College Dublin

The Museum of Ancient History

Dorothy Cross Michelle Doyle Aleana Egan Patrick Hough Richard Proffitt Charlott Weise Curated by Pádraic E. Moore & Jo Day 2021

UCD Classical Museum, School of Classics, University College Dublin

CONTENTS Foreword P ád r aic E . M oor e page 7

Artworks page 13

Interaction, Artefacts and Collections: the Two Museums of Ancient History Dr Jo Day page 85

Not in their Lifetimes: On Ancient Reimaginations in The Museum of Ancient History E lise Bell page 93

Biographies page 101

Cover Image: Aleana Egan, Site Visit, 2019



Foreword P ÁDR AIC E . M OOR E




first encountered the Classical Museum soon after my arrival as an

some instances may have been religious or ritualistic in nature. Some of these objects

undergraduate to University College Dublin in 2001. I happened

would have been sacred because of their purpose, while others have become imbued

upon K216, the room that houses it, one afternoon while wandering

with inherent value simply because of their age. One of the key ideas of this exhibition

the corridors of the Arts Block––something I did frequently in my first

is to reveal some of the hierarchies of objects, and the various categories of value that

months there. I was immediately intrigued by the array of antiquities I

we use. The propensity towards classification is particularly evident in museological

encountered; Egyptian votives, Greek vases and the imposing Roman sarcophagus,

environments; sites where items are stored, preserved and displayed, but also where

which remains in the same place today. Aside from the fascinating collection it

elaborate taxonomies of order are implemented.

houses, the museum itself is something of a gesamtkunstwerk: a palimpsest of wood panelling, apricot linoleum and exposed concrete that has changed only slightly

The Classical Museum epitomises a very particular set of methodologies constructed

since the early seventies. The idiosyncrasies of this space and the methods of display

around traditions of Western Antiquarianism and classical archaeology. In recent

are themselves worthy of our attention, not least since the fate of this museum in its

years, many of the practices associated with these fields have been interrogated and

current form is somewhat uncertain.

are no longer considered entirely ethical. The expropriation of artefacts from their original location in order to present them in the museum, where they can be accessed

In 2004 I graduated from UCD but memories of the museum returned sporadically

by connoisseurs and used for artistic and archaeological instruction, is inextricably

over the years and the idea emerged of organising an exhibition that brought together

tied up with nationalist competition and colonialism. While acknowledging this and

contemporary artworks with ancient artefacts gradually formed. In 2017 I initiated

taking steps to redress these wrongs, however, we should also consider the invaluable

contact with Jo Day (curator of the museum and assistant professor in Greek

importance of museums such as this, which help us to gain a deeper understanding

Archaeology) and proposed this site-responsive project. Following some discussions,

and physical awareness of our shared past. The Classical Museum was originally

this proposal was positively received and has been in development since then.

founded in 1910 by Henry Browne and shaped by his desire in what he described as ‘eye-teaching’. In a tradition that has continued to the present day, he encouraged

Each of the artists has contributed to the exhibition in a way that responds to the

students to have a tactile relationship with artefacts and emphasised the affective,

museum but can also be viewed autonomously. While some of the works respond

multisensory aspects of material culture.

subjectively to the atmosphere of the museum and the objects therein, others relate more specifically to archaeological practices. The conversations that have taken place

Conceiving and developing this project has enabled me to continue my ongoing

with the contributing artists have led to the emergence of several new works in recent

investigations into the concept/phenomenon of numinosity. The term numinous––

months, as exemplified in the case of Aleana Egan’s sculptural intervention, Dorothy

from the Latin numen meaning ‘arousing spiritual or religious emotion; mysterious or

Cross’ image of Shabti figurines and the Gorse Wine that Michelle Doyle has brewed.

awe-inspiring1’––can be used to describe the subtle, instinctual connection between

The emergence of these works highlights the extent to which contemporary art can

persons and things. According to the German theologian and philosopher Rudolf

reflect and represent a kind of crystallisation of a particular context in environment.

Otto (1869-1937), numinosity can be described as a type of ‘mysterious awe’ that

The specificity of these artworks contrasts with many of artefacts of the Classical

evokes something so arcane that it cannot be described or communicated via language.

Museum which were discovered centuries after they were first made and cannot be

This exhibition––and indeed, the museum itself––demonstrates how the ‘numinosity’

traced back to any one individual. Moreover, most of the objects on display were produced not as objects d’art but as utilitarian items with a specific function, which in



Rudolf Otto The Idea of the Holy. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1923) p12.


of an object is frequently generated -or at least augmented- by the language that is used to frame an object or the historical narrative or mythos that has become attached to it over the passage of time. This idea of numinosity relates in particular to a couple of objects I encountered through the course of curating this project with Dr. Jo Day. In particular, the mysterious shabti (Egyptian funerary figurine) that was donated to the UCD Department of Archaeology in the 1970s from a woman who claimed that its presence precipitated paranormal events. Unfortunately the specifics of her experiences are not detailed in the letter but she does refer to the object as though it were a source of malevolent agency. This figurine was given on permanent loan to the Classical Museum in 2019, joining the small collection of other shabtis there. The authenticity of the figurine has been confirmed but the absence of any provenance precludes further research into the object, which has spawned a mythology evocative of The Curse of the Pharaohs. This shabti has been included in this exhibition alongside a photo taken by Dorothy Cross in The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London. The aforementioned letter from the donor of the ‘cursed shabti’ is included in this publication. In organising this exhibition I want to share my enthusiasm for this multifaceted environment and attract those who might not otherwise have visited. It is my hope that the exhibition will be a site of fresh discovery and discussion that will add another chapter to the history of the museum. Hopefully all this will go some way toward ensuring that this unique amenity is preserved for decades to come. To conclude, I would like to thank all those who contributed in some way to this project. In particular Jo Day for her curatorial collaboration and Elise Bell, whose essay can be read elsewhere in this publication. My deepest gratitude goes to the six artists without whom the exhibition could not have occurred.







Image shows: Aleana Egan Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 2012 Aleana Egan Sifting Screens (faded paper), 2020 Dorothy Cross, Three Finches, 2008

Image shows: Richard Proffitt, Night was dead, see-thru dark, 2020


Dorothy Cross Shabti Figures, 2020 Archival pigment prints on Hahnemühle Photo Rag

Dorothy Cross Three Finches, 2008 Cast bronze

Dorothy Cross Tube Worm Bottle, 2008 Archival pigment prints on Hahnemühle Photo Rag


Michelle Doyle Obedient City, 2018/2020 Plaster Casts

1. Death Mask 2. Tetrapod Trackway 3. Tetrapod Trackway Relief 4. Face of Eros 5. Serpent Grail 6. Face of Cupid 7. Post and Telegraph 8. State Diadem 9. Castle Ablaze

10. Sword of Mercy 11. Georgian Flower 12. Touching Point 13. Telecom Eireann 14. Felicitas 15. Civium Urbis 16. Obediencia 17. Three Watchtowers 18. Sword of Spiritual Justice

The Symposium

Gorse Champagne brewed in 2020 to be consumed at a future date TBC.


Aleana Egan Sifting screens (faded paper), 2020 Shot-blast steel, fabric mesh, cellulose fibre

Aleana Egan Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 2012 Volume XLIII, section C, No.7. C.P Martin, L. Price, and G.F Mitchell. On two short cist interments found at Ballybrew, Co. Wicklow. Dublin : Hodges, Figgis & Co. 1936. Courtesy of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.


Patrick Hough Object Interviews Part I, II and III, 2013 Single Channel HD Video


Richard Proffitt Night was dead, see-thru dark, 2020 Mixed media, dimensions variable

Richard Proffitt Night was dead, see-thru dark (detail), 2020 Mixed media, dimensions variable

Richard Proffitt Here Comes The Night, 2019 Oil on paper & collage

Richard Proffitt Temple Somewhere in Thailand, 2019, Oil on card, foil insulation, metal frame

Richard Proffitt £sd, 2019 Oil, acrylic and varnish on paper


Charlott Weise Flanta, 2019 In horto, 2019 Persona, 2019 Watercolour on paper

Charlott Weise Munus, 2019 Vapos, 2019 Flanta, 2019 Watercolour on paper

Charlott Weise Mina, 2019 Carus, 2019 Watercolour on paper

Interaction, Artefacts and Collections: the Two Museums of Ancient History Dr Jo Day Curator of the UCD Classical Museum & Assistant Professor in Greek Archaeology




s ‘The Museum of Ancient History’ once again graces the

an objective gaze was considered the sole appropriate mode of appreciating and

halls of UCD, one hundred and ten years have passed since its

analysing artefacts. Throughout much of this era of visual dominance (roughly

inception by Henry Browne, Professor of Greek, Jesuit priest

the nineteenth and twentieth centuries), knowing through touching was deemed

and Classical studies reformer. Browne came to Dublin from

morally problematic and associated with racial and social hierarchies, in contrast to

England in 1877, following his conversion to Catholicism and

today’s actually hazardous reality. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that Henry

an incomplete Oxford degree. After studying Theology at Milltown Park, a Jesuit

Browne was keen for students to have the chance to physically interact with pieces in

institution, in 1890 he was appointed to University College where he remained

the museum and he enhanced his pedagogy through what he termed “eye-teaching”,

until his retirement in 1922. Browne’s great legacy to the university and to the Irish

akin to a handling collection today. His awareness of the emotional resonance of a

public is his Museum of Ancient History, now called the Classical Museum.

multisensory engagement with the past was unusual for his time, and underpinned his strategy to create a Classical museum in UCD.

When this exhibition was first planned by Pádraic E. Moore and myself, it was intended as the final new display to be installed in the current museum location in

Browne’s main interest was coins and he believed that with a good collection of

K216 of the Newman Building. A refurbishment of the room was scheduled as part

Greek and Roman coinage “history could be illustrated and vitalised” (1917,

of wider Newman works and was to be the first renovation of the Classical Museum

p.187). His purchases at auction for the Museum quickly built up an excellent

since it moved out to Belfield from the old UCD city-centre premises on Earlsfort

array of coins, from early Italian bronzes (aes grave) through Republican denarii and

Terrace in 1971. What promised to be an exciting new chapter in the history of

Roman imperial currency; Greek coinage was mainly represented by a set of British

the Museum has now been put on hold as a result of the economic fall-out of the

Museum electrotypes, complete with beautiful mahogany box. Browne commented

COVID-19 pandemic, an event that has had huge repercussions for museums and

“the delight of seeing and handling the coins is to me intense and indescribable”

the broader arts and cultural heritage sector across the world. Loss of jobs, loss of

(1917, p.187). With this comment, his appreciation for the aura of an original (as

funding, and even loss of museums themselves – 10% of global museums are likely

famously discussed by Walter Benjamin) is apparent. But how does one encounter

to close permanently – have all been highlighted by a recent UNESCO report,

an aura and all of its intangible benefits in this age of digitisation, now hastened by

Museums Around the World in the Face of COVID-19 (May 2020). The museum

COVID-19? Numerous museums are 3D scanning artefacts to host online in virtual

experience is being reinvented right now to ensure that those institutions that can

galleries, and it is possible to make tours of a multiplicity of cultural institutions

remain afloat continue to engage, inspire and educate while adapting to the ongoing

remotely. While these projects have educational and entertainment value, they also

public health situation.

contribute to the digital divide; many developing countries lack infrastructure and funding to transform their museums into online operations, while access to the

One aspect of a museum visit that has become off-limits for the time being is tactile

internet itself is also limited in many of these same places thus restricting access to

interaction, whether with touchscreens that complement displays or with handling

cultural experiences. Our challenge is to pause amidst the headlong rush towards

collections. It is very disappointing that these haptic encounters, and indeed other

digitisation and, in a world where interpersonal experiences have become curtailed,

multisensory engagements recently embraced by museums, now have become

re-think how museums and galleries safely can continue to provide essential

potentially fatal. Their rise to prominence marked the end of a long period where

communal and emotional refuge, as Browne envisaged.



material exhibited within it is still a product of Western fascination with the Antique. Beyond his own teaching, Browne’s passion was to reform the manner in which

A number of the ceramics of southern Italian provenance now housed in it are the

Classics was taught at school and university. Although he published a number of

result of this enchantment by the Classical world, most famously made manifest

academic handbooks (e.g. Handbook of Greek Composition, 1885; Handbook of

in the ‘Grand Tour’ of the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For example,

Homeric Study, 1905), his 1917 volume Our Renaissance: Essays on the Reform and

from his arrival in Naples in 1764, Sir William Hamilton, British Extraordinary

Revival of Classical Studies was really his manifesto for change. Apart from promoting

Envoy to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, became one of the foremost collectors of

the use of artefacts, lantern slides and other visual aids in teaching, while equally

antiquities of the time. In between his ambassadorial duties and his preoccupation

trying to reduce rote learning and linguistic display of dead languages [sic!], his

with volcanoes, he amassed a large collection of artefacts from Italy, most famously

underlying message can be summed up as “the main utility of a Classical education

vases. Not merely an art lover, Hamilton was the first to suggest correctly that these

is the appeal it makes to the imagination” (1917, p.151).

southern Italian ceramics were of Greek rather than Etruscan origin, and the lavish publications of his vases were intended as pattern books for contemporary artists

Imagination, of course, is intimately linked to the Classical world: Greek and

and craftsmen such as Josiah Wedgwood. Several vases in the UCD Museum come

Roman myths, literature and art have inspired countless generations of writers and

from Hamilton’s collection, while a number of others belonged to Thomas Hope,

artists. The current exhibition is testament to the ongoing conversation between

another wealthy Englishman who spent eight years on a Grand Tour. He filled his

artefacts from the past and contemporary artwork. Inspiration is not a one-way flow

homes in London and Surrey with art acquired on his travels and bought from

from ancient to modern however, as archaeologists now recognise that there is much

Hamilton, amongst others; when the contents of Deepdene, his Surrey home,

to learn from creative engagements with material culture in the present. Moreover,

were sold in 1917 by Christies, UCD and the National Museum of Ireland were

archaeological practice itself is a creative process via the exposure of features in the

among the purchasers. Needless to say, archaeological provenance of these pieces,

ground, the creation of visual and textual records, the re-emergence of artefacts, and

and indeed the thousands of others still available on the antiquities market today,

the imagination of new pasts. Artists and archaeologists have much in common as

was not recorded.

we interpret and (re)present worlds past and present. Crucially at this time of global anxiety, the arts are essential for expressing and understanding the world around us,

Other items in the collection came to UCD via a different route. Browne

creating community, and enhancing wellbeing.

corresponded regularly with curators in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the British Museum in London, from whom he received material from Crete,

Yet as both a discipline and practice, archaeology’s colonial roots should not be

Cyprus and Asia Minor. It appears that he sourced Irish antiquities in exchange

glossed over. In the Mediterranean region, western nations have been vying for a

for all of these, but this period in the museum’s history is poorly recorded and

literal piece of Greece or Italy since the eighteenth century – both to excavate upon

little information survives. He also acquired many high-quality replicas of Minoan

and to bring back to display in their own countries, spoils disguised as educational

and Mycenaean artefacts, some from the famous Gilliéron workshop. The Egyptian

material that was even considered morally improving. The development of museums

material probably came to UCD from Queen’s University, Belfast; the curator of the

as showcases for this Classical heritage is intimately linked to these endeavours, and

Museum of Classical Archaeology there, K.T. Frost, had excavated with the notable

while the UCD Classical Museum has never sponsored its own excavations, the

Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie and appears to have distributed artefacts between



the two Irish museums. The stone funerary inscriptions in Greek and Latin, including the third century AD Roman sarcophagus and the Egyptian hieroglyphic stele, were acquired in 1936 at the auction of the contents of Shanganagh Castle (located in south county Dublin). These pieces were originally acquired by Sir George Cockburn, an officer in the British army in the late eighteenth century, who used his military and personal travels around the Mediterranean to acquire antiquities for his family home at Shanganagh – another manifestation of the lure of the Classical past. The Irish Times records on August 19th, 1936, that this collection was “acquired for the public through the timely intervention of Professor Tierney, of University College Dublin.” Tierney was Browne’s successor as Professor of Greek, later to become President of UCD, and must have already wielded no little influence within the university as President’s Reports indicate that annual expenditure on the Classical Museum went from £606.6s.6d. to £955.15s.7d at this time to cover the cost of the Shanganagh material - the sarcophagus alone was reported to have gone for 145 guineas at the auction! Important to note too is that the Museum also houses 29 exceptional Greek vases on long-term loan from the National Museum of Ireland. Whether the proposed renovation of the premises ever materialises is contingent on funding and on university strategic priorities. The Museum is central to teaching and learning within the School of Classics, is used by other Schools across the university (especially Archaeology and Art History & Cultural Policy), is embedded within our outreach strategy, and is an unparalleled resource for the Classical Association of Ireland Teachers and the students they inspire. It is the only museum

FURTH ER READING Astbury, R. 1996. ‘Sir George Cockburn: an Irish traveller and collector.’ Classics Ireland 3, pp. 1-17. Browne, H. 1917. Our Renaissance. Essays on the Reform and Revival of Classical Studies. New York: Longmans, Green and Co. Classen, C. 2017. The Museum of the Senses: Experiencing Art and Collections. London: Bloomsbury. Day, J. and N. Wright. 2012-13. ‘The Roman Republican coin collection of the UCD Classical Museum.’ Classics Ireland 19-20, pp. 1-25. Haywood, C. 2003. The Making of the Classical Museum: Antiquarians, Collectors and Archaeologists. Dublin: UCD Classical Museum. Johnston, A. 1973. ‘A catalogue of Greek vases in public collections in Ireland.’ Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 73, Section C, pp. 339506. Purser, L. 1925. ‘Classical inscriptions at Shanganagh Castle, Co. Dublin.’ Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 37, Section C, pp. 1-35. Ramage, N. 1990. ‘Sir William Hamilton as collector, exporter and dealer: the acquisition and dispersal of his collections.’ American Journal of Archaeology 94, pp. 469-480. Souyoudzoglou-Haywood, C. 2007. ‘Henry Browne, Greek archaeology and “The Museum of Ancient History”’, in The Lure of Greece: Irish Involvement in Greek Culture, Literature, History and Politics, ed. V. Luce, C. Morris and C. Souyoudzoglou-Haywood, pp. 147-161. Dublin: Hinds. UNESCO. 2020. Museums Around the World in the Face of COVID-19. Paris: UNESCO. Available at:

in Ireland entirely dedicated to the Classical world and so is unique in this country. In an era when we are rushing towards increasing digital and virtual worlds while simultaneously longing for greater physical contact, a return to the authenticity of material beckons. For this to happen, places like the UCD Classical Museum that allow contemplation of and interaction with tangible, sensuous, multivocal pieces of the human past remain vital; we look forward to the day when once again we can all engage in this interaction without fear. D r J o D ay



Not in their Lifetimes: On Ancient Reimaginations in The Museum of Ancient history E LISE BE LL



What grandeur, what beauty, what individuality has been disclosed by the spade of the archaeologist.

created. In our contemporary fashion, art and culture, a recurring theme has

2020, Vogue determined that the modern woman’s latest must-have was the Prairie

Henry Browne

become the reinterpretation or re-excavation of past styles, trends and materials. In dresses: a garment more commonly associated with 19th century rural America than the Fashionista’s tarmac catwalks of upper Manhattan. 2019’s critically lauded Bait


has seen filmmakers such as Mark Jenkins earning critical and commercial acclaim

n 2001, the British art critic, novelist and broadcaster John Berger entered

through their use of early 20th century filming equipment such as Haccius and

the Chauvet Caves for the first time. One of the first people allowed to see

Bogopolsky 16mm film Bolex camera. The result is a film so foreign that even in its

the cave since its discovery in the lush Ardèche region of France in 1994,

contemporary setting the act of viewing [it] feels like a form of time travel.

Berger was moved by the vibrant freshness of the ochre-red dots painted by human hands some 33,000 years ago. What haunted him however, was the

This turn towards the ancient has not gone unnoticed by artists and art collectors

silence; a silence that had lain almost undisturbed for centuries. In his grasping for

alike. Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever spoke of the archive as a home, “it’s only

language, or at least a way of translating the enormity of such ancient silence, Berger

meaning, comes to it from the Greek arkheion: initially a house, a domicile, an address,

turned to the cows that grazed his fields in Haute-Savoie. These animals, almost

the residence of the superior magistrates, the archons, those who commanded.” In Alex

prehistoric in their unchanged state, were used in John Berger’s essay anthology

Hartley’s Gentle Collapsing II, the home -in this context a modernist arkheion-

‘The Shape of a Pocket’ as the only linguistic link through which that silence could

literally becomes the archive, crumbling into decay and disrepair in the waterside

adequately be explained to the reader. In short, words were clumsy tools when faced

garden of London’s Victoria Miro gallery. In situating the home within the locus

with the very primal question of who we are, and how we came to be.

of an imagined ancient history, Hartley’s work commanded the same romantic connotations as a site of genuine historical interest; a metafictional paraphrasing

The question of who we are and where we come from is certainly part of the defining

of Ruskin’s secular belief in the great glory of a building existing in its age and in

allure of the Chauvet Caves. It’s an allure that makes money-traps out of sites such

walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity (Ruskin, The

as Pompeii and Lascaux and keeps Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias a permanent

Seven Lamps of Architecture). The exhibition was a sell-out. Just one year before,

fixture in the English classrooms of school children the world over. A wiser man

Damien Hirst’s Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable had taken metafiction

would make the case that this hunger for answers is also a hunger to view history

to new heights in a Biennale show centred around the promise of a new mythology.

from above; the wreckage and whispers of past civilisations instructing an entirely

In Discovery Channel pastiche, divers trawl the depths of the seabed to find the

post-Enlightenment belief in the power of progress, that through witnessing the

long-lost treasures of a slave named Cif Amotan II. Bearing a resemblance to ancient

physical failures of dynasties and world orders we can learn from their mistakes.

Greek and Mesopotamian sculpture, these treasures were supposedly brought up

Perhaps, in the crumbling monuments of history lie lessons on how to live forever.

to the ocean’s surface and housed in a museum. Once more, artists looked to the

Yet for a society measured by growth and the hyper-evolution of technological,

reproduction of history and the construction of memory to captivate the world’s

economic and consumer goods, there is a defining irony in our fascination with

attention and invite the same cultural processing bestowed upon an ancient

looking back into history, not for lessons to be learnt but for new content to be

monument onto a contemporary artwork.



The retreat into the retroactive mode has been critiqued as at worst, symptomatic

Mycenaean pottery as a direct result of “a course on the Prehistoric Civilization of

of a need for validation and at best, a reappraisal of historic narratives that have

Greece with some promising students.”

previously been lost to the past or silenced out of memory. This yearning to look backwards is charismatically argued by Dieter Roelstraete as an impulse as much

As a man of the cloth, Browne’s proximity to ancient history doesn’t feel accidental;

tied to Derrida’s archival turn as it is to the development of feminist art theory in

those primeval questions of where we came from perhaps answered in the Meroitic

the 1970s. In this instance, the artist becomes at once historian, archaeologist and

and Cretan Neolithic pots that found themselves in Browne’s possession. However,

activist, using their art practice to reframe history and reconstruct narratives. In this

the cultural exploits of ancient civilizations were many years from the reality of Irish

artistic practice the affix of “Re” becomes a common linguistic trait, with artists

Catholicism in the late nineteenth century. For a collection spanning thousands

re-evaluating, re-negotiating and re-imagining the histories of those that had been

of years as well as several geographies and civilisations, the lack of sex is a notable

previously oppressed or silenced. It’s a noble mission, and one that helps break down

exception in a collection that gleams with lived history. Stone heads from female

the pervasive societal prejudices that can shape an institution. That this trend has

statuettes of the Cypro Archaic II period are among the most erotically loaded in the

seen major exhibitions refer to history in plural is no surprise, with contemporary

collection as is the plaster cast copy of the Kritios Boy. Yet these works were never

curators now resisting the set binaries imposed by former schools of art history. This

intended to carry these connotations. Within the time of its creation, the Kritios

act of re-examination has itself become a kind of artistic reparation.

Boy would have been used as a funerary memorial, his naked form nothing more than objective fact, its eroticism only appearing from the lens of the modern gaze.

A similar omission of voice and narrative is an ache that can be felt amongst the

The history is there and yet it rings of loss; the unpleasant, rougher edges of the

glass vitrines and wooden drawers of University College Dublin’s Classical Museum.

classical world rubbed out and tidied cleanly out of sight.

A single portrait of its founder and curator, the Rev. Henry Browne S.J., from his obituary in The Irish Province News (1941), sees a grey-haired and pleasingly

The Museum of Ancient History is then something of a historical and moral

handsome priest stare into the middle distance away from the viewer. Nondescript,

intervention, using the work of contemporary artists to re-situate lost narratives and

the image does not suggest the status of Browne as a Professor of Greek at UCD and

voices into the museum space. Echoed in Roelstraete’s own Way of the Shovel, artists

a champion within Ireland for the study of classical archaeology and the collection

have been invited to respond to Browne’s collection, their artworks co-existing

and curation of ancient artefacts. Born during a period of great archaeological

amongst the figurines, bowls and reliefs as if they had existed there forever. These

discovery, Browne’s scholarship in Oxford and subsequent tenure at the university

works are more than just in dialogue with the artefacts and are instead intimately

saw for the first time within Ireland the promotion of material culture as a teaching

incorporated; joining a conversation from which they had previously been excluded

aid to classical history. In its current formation, the Classical Museum is as much

and recontextualising Browne’s collection as an evolving body of history. Patrick

an archive to history as it is a monument to Browne’s tastes and interests within

Hough’s Object Interviews (2013) sees this idea of narrative inclusion taken at

the field of classical civilisation. Letters to institutions such as the Ashmolean and

its most literal, with museum curators, historians and psychoanalysts filmed

British Museum were concise and perfunctory, the romantic notions associated with

interpreting film props designed to look like classical objects and artefacts. As with

classical history of no place in his requests. Yet he made a dedicated teacher. In

Hirst, we are invited to view history at its most metafictional, yet Hough’s film

a letter to colleagues, Browne remarked on his interest in acquiring Minoan and

sensitively adds a permanence to the props, their value becoming more than canny



pastiche and instead providing these objects with a voice and life of their own. After

The Museum of Ancient History therefore feels like a homecoming of sorts, asking

viewing Object Interviews the collection begins to develop a human face. If Hough’s

visitors and students alike to question how history is constructed and collected

Interviews adds narrative, Charlott Weise’s paintings invite sex and colour. In deftly

whilst remaining faithful to Henry Browne’s belief in classical artefacts as teaching

scrawled watercolour, the dark sensuality of ancient history is revived, with Weise’s

resources. As the future of UCD’s Classical Museum is called into question with

monster a sexually charged and fluid presence, as much devil as it is Minotaur.

the building’s ongoing refurbishments, The Museum of Ancient History keenly asks

Munus (2019) evokes the spunk-spattered mythologies of the likes of Sappho and

of its audience to savour the act of remembrance and interrogate what we want to

Homer and warmly invites into the museum the carnal edges of ancient history.

remember and why.

What’s missing from Roelstraete’s analysis however is a formal acknowledgement of the role of the internet in contemporary art’s fascination with looking backwards.


Writing in 2009, Way of the Shovel emerged as Twitter was on the cusp of worldwide popular expansion and years before Instagram became not just a brand but a communicative mode. In an age of acceleration, where history appears on the top of a newsfeed only to disappear seconds later beneath the detritus of content, clickbait and the hyper mundane, contemporary artists have turned their hand to the practice of excavation over creation; digging through the dirt seams of history as an act of resistance in an age of mass cultural output. Within The Museum of Ancient History, this prescient conundrum is explored in the work of Michelle Doyle, her Fragments of the Obedient City (2018) imagining a “Museum of the Future” where the artefacts on show are the remains for a former civic society as algorithmic as Netflix. Using the plaster cast fragments of Dublin’s tourist architecture as well as fossilised technological codes, the supposed order and obedience of past civilisations are reframed as untrustworthy narratives from which to judge an entire society. More than a century on from Browne’s original conception, The Museum of Ancient History is indicative of how the Classical Museum has changed to suit the to and fro of a bustling, international university institution. Nestled amongst the hum of students, the Classical Museum now finds itself out of its original site and instead on the second floor of University College Dublin’s John Henry Newman arts building. Behind a lock and key, the museum is tucked away for students to find, creating a sense of tripping into history and authentic independent discovery.




Selection of Red Figure ceramic sherds from UCD Classical Museum: Left page: UCD 158, UCD 153, UCD 157 Right page: UCD 459, UCD 418, UCD 457 UCD 452, UCD 150, 456

Dorothy Cross (b. 1956) works in sculpture, film and

Michelle Doyle (b. 1989) is a Dublin-based visual artist

photography, Cross examines the relationship between living

working in video, sculpture and performance. She holds a

beings and the natural world. Living in Connemara, a rural

Masters in Art Research and Collaboration from The Institute

area on Ireland’s west coast, the artist sees the body and

of Art, Design & Technology, Dun Laoghaire and a Bachelor of

nature as sites of constant change, creation and destruction,

Arts in Fine Art Media from The National College of Art and

new and old. This flux emerges as strange and unexpected

Design. Doyle’s practice is concerned with power, politics

encounters. Many of Cross’ works incorporate items found

and communication. Distribution and sharing knowledge

on the shore, including boats and animal skins, while others

plays a key role in this, with work often taking place in extra

reflect on the environment. During the 1990s, she produced

institutional spaces, through publications, music releases

a series of works using cow udders, which drew on the

and broadcast.

animals’ rich store of symbolic associations across cultures to investigate the construction of sexuality and subjectivity.

In her practice, Michelle Doyle defines a new relationship

In recent years, Cross’s practice has focused on nature and

between emerging technologies and the role of tangible

the ocean, working with maligned animals such as jellyfish

objects in communicating history to society. In particular,

and shark, and exploring rarely accessible areas like sea

she is interested in the use of replicas and video in visitor

caves or shell grottos. Recent solo exhibitions include New

centres and museums. Materials reflect economy, trade and

Art Centre, Roche Court, UK, May 2017 Lismore Castle Arts,

aspiration, and take on their own use value despite their

Ireland, 2014 and Turner Contemporary, UK, 2013, touring

lack of fidelity. Video exists to compel and contextualise

to RHA, Dublin, 2014. Cross has participated in the Venice

heritage promptly. Neutral and benign entry points no longer

Biennale, 1993, Istanbul Biennial, 1997 and Liverpool

exist. Many of her works examine the accelerated nature

Biennial, 1998 and the groundbreaking 1994 exhibition Bad

of engagement technology and increasing privatisation of

Girls, ICA London and CCA, Glasgow. Cross is included in the

heritage sites.

collections of Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Norton Collection, Santa Monica; Art Pace Foundation, Texas;

Recent exhibitions include solo shows, Obedient City (2018)

Goldman Sachs Collection, London; The Arnolfini Trust,

in A4 Sounds, Tulca (2019) and Burning Down The House

Bristol and TATE, London.

(2019) in Tactic Cork. Doyle also curated the Repeater Data Dump, a usb drive artwork which featured various artists, musicians and researchers with Coilin O’Connell in 2019. Forthcoming shows include Welcome to the Neighbourhood, Askeaton (2021) and Lodge Paintings, Solo Show in the RHA (2021). Michelle Doyle was awarded the Next Generation Award (2019-2020) and Fire Station Residential Studio Award (2020-2023). She also performs under the alias Rising Damp and will release her solo album in March 2021.



Aleana Egan (b. 1979) uses a variety of materials to create

Patrick Hough (b.1989) is an artist living and working in

sculptural gestures and installations which can take the

London. Incorporating moving images, photography and

form of slender, fluid works and a more densely concentrated

installation, Hough’s work explores the relationship between

constellation of forms. Often, the sculptures are expressive

cinema, technology and archaeology. Questioning the

whilst using a language of materials and artistic technique that

relationship between humans and objects (both virtual

is sparing. These materials such as various metals, cardboard,

and physical) his practice reflects upon the way in which

concrete, wood, pigment and fabric are incorporated into

cinematic images are indelibly embedded in our perception

a practice which comes from an intuitive as well as an

of history. Patrick received his BA in Fine Art Media from

intellectual place and which plays with the materials’ qualities;

NCAD, Dublin in 2011 and his MA in Fine Art from the Royal

how they curve, hang or sag. More recently works are made up

College of Art, London in 2013. Recent solo exhibitions

of constituent parts, each forming a social relationship with

include: False Starts, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan; And If In A

the other. Recent solo exhibitions include New People, Konrad

Thousand Years: Jerwood / FVU Awards, Firstsite, Colchester,

Fischer Galerie, Düsseldorf (2020) Spitze, Farbvision, Berlin

UK. Recent group exhibitions: Nature as Data, Shanghai

(2019); A House and Its Head, Kerlin Gallery (2017); Recent

Sculpture Park, Shanghai; The Medium is the Message,

group exhibitions include from narrow provinces, Cample Line,

The Library Project, Dublin; Artist Film International,

Dumfriesshire, Scotland (2019); staring forms, TBG&S (2019);

Whitechapel Gallery, London and MAAT, Lisbon; Abracadabra,

Aleana Egan/Pearl Blauvelt, Mary Mary, Glasgow (2018).

6th Moscow Biennial of Young Art, Moscow. He is a recipient of the 2017 Jerwood / FVU Awards, the 2017 PLASTIK Award at PLASTIK Festival of Artist Moving Image, Dublin and a 2019 Film London FLAMIN Productions commission.



Richard Proffitt (b. 1985) lives and works in Dublin. His work

Charlott Weise (b. 1991) studied at the HfbK Dresden, the

in painting, sculpture and sound is inspired by a stream of

Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and is a former

consciousness recollection of histories, memories, dreams,

participant of De Ateliers, Amsterdam. Her work has been

fact and fiction, and driven by an interest in found material that

exhibited at GEM, Den Haag; Arti & Amicitiae, Amsterdam;

consists of thematically sourced objects, paper ephemera,

W139, Amsterdam; Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen, Vijfhuizen;

junk and sound recordings. The works often combine to

A Maior, Viseu; Lower.Green, Norwich; Belmacz, London;

create immersive, otherworldly, site-responsive installation

Wschód, Warsaw; Damien & The Love Guru, Brussels;

works that evoke places of worship one may imagine existing

Ginerva Gambino, Cologne among others. She lives and

in an intermingling cosmic universe of esoteric folk religions,

works in Amsterdam.

the bedroom of a teenage loner, a spaghetti western and the

remote habitat of a psychedelic death cult. However, the

Her practice is based on painting as a form of writing. Her

information and imagery they are loaded with is a personal

work strongly refers to the inner world in interplay with

form of esoterica born from the written word, from memories

relationships, image, obsessions; female characters are

and personal and artistic history. The work is not about

thematised and find themselves in odd or symbolic, staged

psychedelia but informed by psychedelia, the things at the

situations. She is exploring stories and clichés of women in

back of your brain manifesting into word, voice and image.

history, contemporary culture and on holiday. Her paintings

Recent solo exhibitions include May the moon rise and the sun

underlie a dark energy, evocation of female archetypes,

set, UCC Music Department, Cork and Written In Water, Shone

finding themselves in banal as well as stylized controversies.

In Stone, Lost In Light, Kevin Kavanagh, Dublin. Recent group exhibitions include Display, Link & Cure, The Complex, Dublin,

She is infatuated by the fluid, liquid nature of oil painting (its

They Call Us The Screamers, TULCA 2017, 126 Gallery, Galway

material relation to make-up), and its ability as a medium

and The Golden Record, Galway Arts Centre, Galway.

to speak through the body - in the form of marks, scratches, gestures and colors - transmuting dreamlike fantasies and fears into the pictorial realm. The act of painting for her is a speaking out the unconscious, each painting becoming a container for a shifting the ‘ female voice’ or consciousness.



Acknowledgments Arts Council of Ireland Elise Bell Dr Martin Brady Cian Brennan Jim Butler / Inspirational Arts Isobel Carnegie Pádraig Cunningham / Pure Designs Iseult Devaney Tasneem Filaih Emma Green Louis Haugh Andreas Kindler von Knobloch Ali McGilp Kerlin Gallery UCD College of Arts and Humanities UCD School of Classics



The Museum of Ancient History Dorothy Cross Michelle Doyle Aleana Egan Patrick Hough Richard Proffitt Charlott Weise Curated by Pádraic E. Moore & Jo Day 2021

UCD Classical Museum, School of Classics, University College Dublin