Collecting Ancient Europe

The 19th and early 20th centuries were the period when the field of archaeology really started to develop into the discipline we know today. It is no coincidence that this was also a time when many museums and institutes began to create collections of antiquities (and replicas) from across Europe, and to develop their understanding of the continent’s past through comparison of these objects. But changes in the second half of the 20th century led many of these comparative ‘Ancient Europe’ collections to be disbanded in favour of exhibits focusing on local or national history.

This short book draws on a workshop held in 2018 in connection with a project at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, looking at its own forgotten ‘Ancient Europe’ collection, which was dispersed in the 1950s. The workshop brought together museums and institutes from across Europe to examine their old ‘Ancient Europe’ collections and the networks involved in their creation. The result is an engaging and well-illustrated publication that offers a fascinating insight into what these early collections can reveal about both the past and our understanding of it. These discussions are particularly relevant at the current point in time, when questions about identity and interpretations of the past are at the forefront of the discipline.

-Amy Brunskill

Collecting Ancient Europe: national museums and the search for European antiquities in the 19th-early 20th century 
Luc W S W Amkreutz (ed.) Sidestone Press, £35 
ISBN 978-9088909351