The Ellen Thomas Stanford Bequest

Posted on 22 November 2010


As a major national institution, the University of Wales is fully committed to underpinning the life of Wales and supporting its culture, environment and economy. This is partly achieved by the investment the University makes in supporting students from across the globe to achieve the most out of their university experience. Every year the University awards a number of scholarships, prizes and studentships to individuals of distinguished academic merit, or who come from a disadvantaged background.

One such award offered by the University is The Ellen Thomas-Stanford Bequest, which delivers funding to chosen honours students looking to proceed to a further course in Classics, Greek or Latin at an approved university. Other scholars chosen for this award will receive funding for travelling abroad in connection with the study of classics; this would entail visiting museums and archaeological sites relevant to their programme of study.

Below is a report written by Cheryl Heart, a student of Swansea University, and one of a cohort of students to receive the Ellen Thomas-Stanford Bequest this year. Here she recounts her travels through Italy, made possible by the award she received:

by Cheryl Hart (Swansea University)

I made the trip to Italy for my research tour during the Easter break from university.

I travelled firstly to Turin where I spent four days. The primary reason for choosing Turin was to visit the Egyptian Museum. I last went to the museum some years ago but it has since been revamped and many of the artefacts have been redisplayed, in particular the monumental sculpture gallery which is now quite spectacular. This is a very large gallery and although quite dimly lit, it provides an innovative means of viewing the sculptures as the entire area is lined with full-height mirrors. This enables you to see all sides of the monuments, and also makes it fairly easy to read inscriptions, even if high up on the sculpture, as they can be viewed slightly further away.

My particular interest in Egyptology is the Predynastic period for which Turin has quite a good number of artefacts. I was able to make an appointment with the curator, who is known to me, so that I could view some artefacts from the stores. This will be of particular use during the coming year in my dissertation research. The display galleries themselves have a selection of Predynastic pottery, supposed fertility figurines, cosmetic palettes, and a Predynastic burial.

Museo Egizio holds the Schiaparelli collection which was begun in the late 19th Century. More recently (1960s) the museum was lucky enough to benefit from the acquisition of a temple rescued prior to the flooding of Lake Nasser due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The museum also houses the Tomb of Kha but unfortunately on this visit it was closed.

I timed my visit to Turin to coincide with the Exposition of the Turin Shroud. Although it was not obviously directly related to my studies, it is an historical artefact which I have wanted to see for many years, having spent a great deal of time researching the various analyses and discussions as to its authenticity. It is only put on public display once every ten years or so, and it was an incredibly moving experience to view it first-hand. It was something which I am unlikely to forget.

One benefit of having queued in the grounds of the Royal Palace for the Shroud exhibition was that I was made aware of a museum in the gardens and buildings of the palace housing a collection of Greek and Roman antiquities which I had previously been unaware of. I visited this museum the following day, spending most of the day there as the collection was so extensive. I was particularly interested in a large display of Roman brooches and clasps, and am hoping to return to this museum at some point to make an appointment with the curator to discuss some points of interest and view the collection in more detail.
Overall I spent two full days in the Egyptian Museum and one full day in the Museum of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

I then travelled on to Rome by train but only had time to spend two and a half days there, as I wanted to devote more time to Pompeii, so it was quite a mad rush around the major sites. I was however, once again, quite lucky with my timing as some of the smaller sites of interest had been closed and had only just reopened prior to my visit. The downside of this was that a lot of visitors wanted to see them too. I did, of course, spend quite a lot of time exploring the Colosseum. As I was studying a module at the time on Sport in the Ancient World it was of particular relevance to see this site in some detail. Associated with this I also visited the site of the Circus.

I spent about half a day – all I could spare – in the Vatican museum which has a very good display of Roman statuary from ancient times. I also visited some of the tombs or mausoleums of some of the emperors.

The next, and final, part of my trip was to Pompeii. I had been researching aspects of this site for a university module and was able to view the buildings first hand to help me understand more about the conditions at the town prior to the eruption of 789AD. Due to this particular research I had made contact with the team of excavators who are currently working at Pompeii and I made arrangements before travelling to Italy to meet up with the Director of the excavations on my arrival in Pompeii to discuss some of the questions I had regarding the site. I was extremely lucky in this respect as a couple of years ago I was heavily involved with Roman excavations in South Wales through Cardiff University and I was introduced to the Director at Pompeii by my previous lecturer. Due to the experience I had in excavations previously, I was invited to help for a couple of days at Pompeii which I was thrilled to be able to do. Although I had done quite a lot of research for my module assignment it was on a very specific area and until I arrived at Pompeii I had totally underestimated what a vast site it is. One of the excavators was especially helpful in guiding me personally round the town to show me particular points of interest, and also explaining the work that they have planned for the next few seasons. I spent some time too in the museums in Naples where many of the artefacts found at Pompeii have been displayed.

Pompeii is a site I would definitely hope to return to, especially as I am probably going to be incorporating some of the research I have already carried out on this site into my postgraduate studies.

I will conclude by thanking you for allowing me to spend this time travelling to these sites by awarding me this travel grant. I can assure you that it was of substantial benefit to my studies as can be borne out by the marks I gained in the relevant modules.


Notes to Editors:

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