Museum of Antiquities (Saskatoon)

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Museum of Antiquities
Museum of Antiquities (Saskatoon) View 1.jpeg
Established 1974
Location University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Coordinates 52°07′50″N 106°37′57″W / 52.13053°N 106.63253°W / 52.13053; -106.63253
Type Archaeology museum
Director Dr. Tracene Harvey
An original 17th-century portrait of Hannibal. Donated to the Museum by Judge John C. Currelley in honour of his mother, Mary Newton Currelley.

The Museum of Antiquities is an archaeological museum at the University of Saskatchewan. It opened in 1974 to provide an opportunity to study ancient works. The Museum currently features a variety of Greek and Roman sculpture, and contains a collection of Near Eastern, Egyptian, Byzantine, Islamic and Medieval art. It is one of only a handful of museums of its kind in Canada.


The project which became the “Museum of Antiquities” began in 1974. It was initiated by ancient historian Michael Swan and art historian Nicholas Gyenes, both professors of the University of Saskatchewan. The collection began as a small group of replicas purchased from the Louvre, but grew to include replicas from other museums and workshops, as well as original artifacts. The collection grew through the generosity of the University and private benefactors until, in 1981, new facilities in the Murray Library were acquired, the collection was officially opened as the “Museum of Antiquities”, and Catherine Gunderson became the first curator and director of the museum. In 2005, the ever-expanding Museum moved to a larger space in the newly renovated College Building now known as the Peter MacKinnon Building. Dr. Tracene Harvey became director in 2009.[1]


The long-term aim of the Museum is to offer a reliable and critical account of the artistic accomplishments of major Western civilizations and epochs from approximately 3000 BC to 1500 CE. The first step in this endeavor was the presentation of a dependable picture of ancient Greco-Roman sculptural art, as it has heavily influenced much later Western art. The present collection focuses on items from the Middle Helladic (c. 1500 BCE) to the Late Antique (c. 500 CE) period. In recent years, it has been expanded to include pieces from the ancient Near East and ancient Egypt.

The collection is, however, only a beginning. Greco-Roman antiquity was chosen as a starting point. Classical art remains an important frame of reference of Western art, which, whatever it does, does so with awareness of conforming or dissenting. The distinct style of Classical art is also very recognizable and thus provides a familiar foundation. Since the aim of the collection is to make sensible the elements and progressions of the various arts, our initiation is greatly facilitated by familiar examples. The collection’s recent expansion into the art of the ancient Near East and Egypt provides a welcome and necessary counterpoint, illustrating both the convergence and divergence of the artistic traditions of the ancient world.

Given the planned scope of the collection and its aim of explaining and illustrating the evolution of individual arts as well as their interaction, we would be hard pressed to fit, in this small area, adequate representation of the many innovations and rapid changes in pre-modern Western art. Such versatility cannot be thoroughly documented and demonstrated by our few examples. Inevitably, in this phase of the collection, the gaps are many and we can provide only an outline of the art of this period.[2]


The Museum's pieces mainly consist of plaster cast replicas, making the collection one of a few cast collections in Canada, and the only one in Saskatchewan. A replica is a work that is created directly from, and is practically indistinguishable from, its original. The replicas in our Museum are, in general, not crafted from the same material as the original. Most are casts of plaster or resin, not marble or bronze, for the obvious reasons of expense and weight. The replicas by large workshops—such as those at the Louvre, Paris, the British Museum, London, and the Gipsformerei der Staatlichen Museen, Berlin—are created from moulds taken directly from the original pieces. They therefore replicate exactly any damage borne by the original. After the plaster cast is unmoulded, it is painted and given a surface finish which matches the original.

The aim of the present collection is to offer a reliable and critical account of the accomplishments of all periods and civilizations in the field of Western sculptural art. Such an objective would be unattainable for museums of priceless originals, but is within the bounds of possibility with a relatively inexpensive cast collection. It is not the rarity or fame of the work that determines the price of a replica, only the cost of production. A faithful copy of the priceless and famous Venus de Milo, for instance, entails no greater expense than would any other statue of its size. Although a replica cannot serve as an investment or status symbol for a collector, a well-crafted cast provides a unique instrument of study and research in addition to its aesthetic qualities.

In fact, the guarded treasures of departments of antiquity in museums are mostly ancient copies of Greek works made to grace Roman homes. Without these ancient copies, our knowledge of ancient statuary would be most fragmentary. Furthermore, the intermediary procedure and technique used by the sculptors of antiquity correspond to the modern plaster casting technique.

Often a plaster cast will fare better than the original, made of marble or bronze, which has been destroyed or mutilated beyond repair. The replicas of the panels from the Parthenon frieze, for example, are in better condition than the original panels, which were until recently still in situ and had deteriorated, attacked daily by air pollution. Should some major disaster occur and destroy the original, the corresponding replica from this museum could easily be elevated from its humble station of a copy to the high rank of a prototype.

Thus we are doubly indebted to the procedure of replication: the easy, economical technique and light weight of its product makes it relatively easy to create and disperse high quality prototypes all over the world. Thanks to replication, the “survival of the species” is assured and we have the opportunity of knowing and appreciating, at such a distance in time and space, the great creations of the remote past.

The collection has replicas of several famous pieces, such as the Rosetta Stone and the Venus de Milo.[3]

The collection does feature some original sculpture. The highlight is the 17th century portrait of Hannibal. Other original pieces include a storage amphora, a false door and a substantial collection of ancient glass.

Feature exhibitions[edit]


The Hanson Collection: Early Islamic Artifacts (2013)

The Minden Collection: Ancient Glass and Artifacts (2012)


Euphonia: Music for the Masses in the Middle Ages (2013)

Masks as Mirrors: Reflections on Therapeutic Uses of Masks in Ancient Greek and Modern Times (2013)

Coinstantinople: An exploration of early coins that helped define the new Byzantine capital (2011)

Buildings of The Past: Scale Models of Ancient Buildings and Monuments (2011)

Optimi Principes: New acquisitions of Roman Imperial Art Unveiled (2010)

Sex? in the City: Images of Sexuality in Roman Domestic Space (2009)

Bene Merenti: Inscriptions from the Roman Catacombs (2008)

Wondrous Print: Renaissance Books in Saskatchewan Collections (2007)

Oasis: Civilizations of the Desert (2007)

Art of Adornment (2006)

The Stonecarver's Craft (2005)

Greece Then & Now (2003)


The Museum also runs "Living History" Children's Summer Camps.[4] As part of its community outreach initiatives the Museum takes part in many cultural festivals such as the Heritage Festival of Saskatoon, Folkfest and Culture Days.

The Museum also has a volunteer program for university students to allow them to learn about researching for and running a museum.

The Museum has partnered with the Canadian Light Source to research ancient coins.[5]


  1. ^ Museum of Antiquities "History of the Collection"
  2. ^ Museum of Antiquities "Aims of the Collection"
  3. ^ "The Collection". Museum of Antiquities. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  4. ^ "Children's Workshops". Museum of Antiquities. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  5. ^ Ferguson, Mark (March 26, 2010). "Old meets new". On Campus News. University of Saskatchewan Communications. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 

External links[edit]