On 1 October 2010 the Ashmolean completed a further stage of its transformative redevelopment, with the reopening of the Cast Gallery. The Museum has one of the country’s largest collections of casts taken from the monuments and sculptures of the ancient world. The Cast Gallery, once a separate building, is now an integral part of the Museum and has been completely redisplayed.
The Ashmolean Cast collection began in 1884 and received its own purpose-built gallery in 1960. Until 2006, when the nineteenth century galleries behind the famous Ashmolean façade were demolished, visitors to the Cast Gallery had to leave the Museum to gain access. Now the gallery has been joined with the main Museum building. Large double-doors have been installed in the Cast Gallery’S external wall, and a light-filled promenade with glass ceiling joins the building to the new ROME 400 BC – AD 300 Gallery.
The project integrates the cast collection with those of the new Ancient World Galleries, allowing visitors to see the sculpture of the ancient Mediterranean in its wider cultural and historical contexts. The casts have been redisplayed showing them in the variety of settings in which sculpture was found in the Greek and Roman worlds – sanctuaries, public squares, cemeteries, country villas. The entrance to the Gallery shows a display of Roman imperial reliefs – casts of the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, Trajan's Arch at Beneventum, and the Ara Pacis Augustae. A special section is dedicated to a unique collection of casts of Roman and late Antique portraits from Aphrodisias, Turkey.
The Ashmolean’s Cast Gallery is one of the oldest, largest, and best preserved collections in the UK, containing over 900 casts, some of which date back to the eighteenth-century. A number of the older casts are in better condition than the acid-damaged originals from which they were moulded – such as the Caryatid Sculpture from the Erechtheion Temple. The collection is especially strong in casts of Classical sculpture, but also has important Hellenistic and Roman material, including iconic pieces such as the Venus di Milo, the Nike of Samothrace and the Laocoön. The collection is invaluable for teaching students in a range of subjects, for artists, and for members of the public who do not have access to sculptures from all over the world.