The Classics Museum is a hidden gem, tucked away in the corner of the Newman building, open to all, known by few. Ruairí Long investigates, in another instalment of Lesser Spotted UCD.
UCD’s list of surprises is long, but then again, the campus is big. Although the cynical final years among us may titter at the shaken bunches of freshers scurrying about in groups, even they will be surprised by some things hidden close to home. As close to home, in fact, as the Newman Building. Newman is both hectic and deathly quiet, depending on floor and corridor. On a wet Wednesday, as theatre L booms and An Cuas chats, the Classics corridor is peaceful: soft sounds audible over typical white noise. On that exact corridor lies room K216, home to the UCD Classical Museum.
Two curators of the museum Dr. Jo Day and Kaylinn Bednarz spoke to the University Observer about the museum. Day said “the collection was founded over one hundrend years ago, by a Professor of Greek called Henry Brown. It was initially in Earlsford Terrace where UCD began, and when UCD moved out to Belfield it moved too and it’s been this room since the 1970s.”
“That’s one of the unique features of this museum, it’s exclusivity. It feels personal and low key, something familiar in its distinct differentness.”
Sure, Trinity has the Book of Kells, but you will most certainly not be bombarded by tourists here. It is the only museum of its kind in an Irish university, and is fully fledged, with display cabinets, interactive exhibits and descriptions galore. This museum is almost cosy, an alcove of fascination and intrigue run by its two warm and friendly curators.
According to the assistant curator of the museum, Kaylinn Bednarz, the museum is quiet, “I’d say 20 visitors just drop in a week.” Structured visits for tutorial groups are also arranged for tutorial groups. Day describes these visits as having “12 or 15 people [per group] an there is a difference between structured visits as and people who just drop in.”
That’s one of the unique features of this museum, its personality. It feels low key, with something familiar in its distinct differentness. Its purpose is to educate you as a student of UCD, it has no pretensions. You can get a personal tour of the museum from a curator, their passion and knowledge easy to feel in a conversation. Bednarz says she enjoys the surprise people show when they actually see what is contained inside that one room, and she always makes sure not to harass any visitor who doesn’t want to talk.
Over 2500 items are stored inside the museum, items that can be up to 7000 years old. The curator, Dr.Day, believes the museum holds an attraction for people to see new things. “Whatever you’re doing, engineering or commerce or medicine, this stuff is still interesting. Just to see things that people were making and using from 4000BC up until the 3rd century AD. I think that’s bound to be interesting.”
“You can get a personal tour of the museum from a curator, their passion and knowledge easy to feel in a conversation.”
Bednarz’s favrouirite item in the museum is the loom weights on which she did a masters’ project. She added “I also wrote an article about them in the Trowel, the UCD archaeology publication, and I’m working on a display right now for that, it’s just in the preliminary idea stage. I like them because there’s not that much known about them, there’s a lot to learn from them I think, so it’s kind of like one of those mystery objects that there’s a lot there, just trying to figure out exactly how they were made and used.”
Although the idea of a museum is not everyone’s cup of tea, it may be the least offensive activity to tell the folks back home about, moving the topic on from the fact that much of your time in Dublin is spent on Harcourt street. Many of us even enjoy a visit to a museum now and again, Dublin is sprinkled with many world-renowned ones that attract many a tourist.
Lucky for you, there is no need to risk the 46A, you can simply take yourself into a central building on campus instead. So, if you ever feel like you are lacking in the culture department, and are dying to embrace something artsy, even for five minutes, why not give it a visit. There is a list of things you must do alone, and visiting a museum without the distraction of company is one of them. It’s ultimately soothing.
The museum is open Tuesday to Friday in the late morning, closing at 1:30pm. It is, like many things in university, what you make of it. Hours and hours of work, stored lovingly in the hope that students like you will learn something, anything, from the intricacies of the collection. Masters’ theses have been written on many of the items you will be looking at. There is far more than meets the eye in the displays, just simply have a good hard look. You can even buy a postcard to send to your Granny.