Throughout the spring semester Amy Nicholas, ’11, and Dayle Wood, ’11, have been involved in an independent study with classical studies professor Elizabeth Baughan, organizing the artifacts in the Stuart L. Wheeler Gallery of the Ancient World.
Nicholas came to Richmond intending to declare a major in studio art. After taking a Greek art and archaeology class, however, she became fascinated by archaeology and decided to add a second major in classical civilization.
In early January, while taking Baughan’s Archaeology, Ethics and Law class, Nicholas heard about the gallery project, one that Baughan had been working on with another student since the previous spring.
Now, with the beginnings of an inventory list for the gallery, Baughan was looking for students interested in tracing the histories of specific artifacts for independent study credit. It was just the hands-on research opportunity Nicholas had been looking for, and after signing onto the project, she went to work finding the origins of the gallery’s six Roman lamps, about which very little was known.
“I started by ordering catalogs of Roman lamps from universities and museums across the country and spent a lot of time looking through them to find lamps that are similar to the ones we have here,” she said. “I compared features of the lamps to try and target when and where the lamps were made.”
Nicholas is looking forward to this summer, when she’ll use an Arts & Sciences travel research grant to go with Baughan to Turkey for her first archaeological dig.
“What interests me the most is the way that art and archaeology work together,” said Nicholas. “I was surprised when Professor Baughan told me that out in the field, on digs, there’s a high demand for those with artistic skill. I’m excited to see all the ways that these two areas of interest can come together in the future.”
Wood, an art history major, was busy studying contemporary works when an elective class on ancient art drew her into the world of classical studies. Her interest in the subject led to a minor in classical civilization. Like Nicholas, Wood heard about the gallery project while in Baughan’s Archaeology, Ethics and Law class and was excited to find a research experience that encompassed both her major and minor.
“My main interests lie in museum studies, so this was a great opportunity for me,” said Wood.
Wood began the project by researching the origins of the gallery’s Egyptian sarcophagus fragments. Like the rest of the gallery’s artifacts, very little was known about the history of the sarcophagus and Wood had to dig through records in the Virginia Baptist Historical Society to try and find from where the fragments were purchased. She found an inventory list from 1877, difficult to read, that listed the artifacts of the collection and has worked at deciphering the history behind these pieces ever since.
“I’m really enjoying this research project,” she said. “Going into it, I didn’t know much about ancient Egyptian art. All of us on the project, even Professor Baughan, are learning as we go along. I definitely want to stick with this to see the gallery take shape.”