The redevelopment of the Cast Gallery was completed in autumn 2012 with the opening of the Lower Ground Floor, a project funded thanks to the generosity of Baron Thyssen. The aim of the display was to provide a useful tool for students of ancient art, and so most of the objects were arranged in a chronological manner. Of particular interest are the historic casts of the Parthenon marbles, the never before displayed casts from reliefs from the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, all in better condition than the original marble reliefs, and the portrait gallery, showcasing the development of Greco-Roman portraiture from 600 BC to AD 500.
The installation of the casts in new, purposely-made plinths and their arrangement in the ground floor gallery was the last stage. The new thematic arrangement reflects the Cast Gallery's connection to the Ancient World galleries of the museum, and we hope that it will serve as an introduction and a reminder of how complex yet fascinating the ancient world was.
With the completion of the new Ashmolean, it was time to consider how best to redisplay the collection. In light of the newly built direct connection to the museum, the scholastic, chronological approach was rejected, and the decision was taken to display only a selection of casts in a new and exciting manner that would emphasize the original locations of statuary (sanctuaries, tombs, public areas, villas). However, the research that went into the production of the panels and labels was extensive, and offered opportunities to young scholars to work in a museum environment under the guidance and supervision of the curatorial team.
After the transport and the relocation of the stored objects from the Cast Gallery, the refurbishment works for the building could begin: walls and ceilings were replastered and painted, while the floors were sanded and revarnished. The old lights were replaced by a new lighting system and the Cast Gallery was fully integrated into the new Ashmolean museum building. At the same time, the conservation and preparation of the casts for the new display in the building site that was effectively the Cast Gallery was continuous: an often difficult, yet indispensable part of the whole project.
The Cast Gallery in 2005
2005 signified a break in the Cast Gallery's life and function: it was turned into a secure store for 5000 objects that were moved from the old museum building before it was demolished. A mezzanine and cage were installed on the ground floor for this purpose.
The Cast Gallery before 2005
The Cast Gallery served as one of the main locations in Oxford for teaching ancient Greek and Roman Art and was an indispensable part of the University Museums. The old display was chronologically arranged, even though thematic exhibitions focusing on particular sculptures (for example the Aphrodisias Fisherman, or Roman portraits – the exhibition Gluttons and Gladiators) were also part of the display.
These images are of the gallery in 2005 before the Museum Redevelopment.