Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, Reading University

I fancied a trip out this morning but didn’t want to go too far so a museum at the local university, within walking distance, seemed to be an ideal choice. I’d done the Cole Museum of Zoology at the university last year and so today I thought I would try out the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology.

There was another reason for getting a visit to this particular museum early doors as I wondered after the recent spat between the Greek and British PMs how long would it be before the contents of the museum were repatriated to their place of origin…

Pots, pots and more pots

The museum is in the back of the Edith Morley building which was, thankfully, not a warren of corridors as some of the buildings on campus seem to be. It was a small space with cabinets around three sides and a couple more in the centre. This being an open space in the university there was nobody there to greet you, take your entrance fee or sell you a branded pencil on the way out. I was the only one there although I could hear voices from the seminar rooms nearby.

A quick scan of the room revealed that the vast majority of objects on display were pots of various shapes and sizes. Some beautifully and somewhat unbelievably well preserved and others little more than fragments. Many were beautifully painted. Now I like a good pot but, to be honest, this was probably a bit of pot overload.

The displays were grouped into themes such as Music, Athletics and Money with each section having the inevitable pot to illustrate the theme. The signage was simple, highlighting what you were seeing in front of you and tying that back to the theme and historical information. However, the key for each item was down at the level of my knees so I was constantly bending down to match the number to the text which was a bit of a pain.

Send ’em home!

There are a couple of interesting points that have been raised by my visit to this particular museum. The first is that it is incredible that there are at least two diverse and fascinating museums at the local university that are freely available to anyone to visit – not just the staff and students of the university. The second is about the thorny issue of whether items that have been, and I’m being polite here, repatriated from their home countries should remain in museums abroad.

I know that some say that several items, including the Elgin Marbles, were bought and paid for and we have the paperwork to prove it. There is also the issue that once you send one item home you open the floodgates and the British Museum in particular would be emptied out.

Part of the problem for the UK is that it would be pretty much one-way traffic. I cannot think of any item languishing in a foreign museum waiting to be returned. While we are examining and rectifying the ills of the UK’s colonial past surely this too has to be part of that difficult conversation?

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