About the department
The Ashmolean’s cast gallery is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved collections of casts of Greek and Roman sculpture in the UK. It contains some 900 plaster casts of statues, reliefs, and architectural sculptures. The collection is particularly strong in casts of Classical sculpture, but also has important Hellenistic and Roman material – including iconic pieces such as the Venus di Milo and the Nike of Samothrace. Many of the historical casts, some dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, are in better condition than the acid-rain-damaged originals from which they were moulded.
The casts were originally displayed in the Ashmolean museum, until a purpose-built gallery was opened in 1961. Their presentation focused on the chronological sequence of the original artworks and changed little until the recent redisplay of the Gallery. The Cast Gallery was closed during the museum’s redevelopment project, and has now re-opened (October 2010) – refurbished and in a new arrangement. The gallery is also now connected directly to the museum.
The thematic arrangement of the ground floor of the reopened Gallery display aims to present the contexts in which statues were used in antiquity (sanctuaries, tombs, public areas, and villas). The display of the lower ground floor is currently under re-arrangement, with the aim to provide a useful teaching aid for students, primarily those studying archaeology and art history.
The new gallery is directly accessible from the Rome Gallery. Because of the dense arrangement of casts in the lower ground floor, access there is restricted. However, it is possible to see the collection in one of the tours run by specially trained volunteers and VSAs (every Thursday and Saturday at 3.00 pm, ‘Behind the Scenes of the Cast Gallery’), or by appointment.
Students of archaeology, art history, ancient history and classics, as well as University members of staff teaching relevant subjects can access the lower ground floor after obtaining a Cast Gallery Visitor’s Pass from Reception (at the St Giles entrance of the museum).