History of the collection

Key data on the Heidelberg Collection of Classical Antiquities

The Collection of Classical Antiquities was founded in 1848, when the University of Heidelberg first provided a budget for the acquisition of archaeological teaching aids. The collection emerged from the so-called Antiquarium Creuzerianum, a small collection of coins and small-format plaster casts that had been donated by students of the classical philologist Georg Friedrich Creuzer in 1834. From 1848, this collection was gradually expanded to include original objects and copies (casts), particularly under Friedrich von Duhn, who was a professor at the Heidelberg Archaeological Institute from 1880 to 1920. The majority of the letters from the so-called Old Inventory of the Collection of Classical Antiquities, transcriptions of which can be seen in this blog, date from Friedrich von Duhn’s time.

Georg Friedrich Creuzer was the first to include archaeological content in his lectures. The first actual chair of archaeology at the University of Heidelberg was filled in 1846 by Creuzer’s successor Karl Zell, who was provided with funds by the Ministry of the Interior for the acquisition of artefacts for the first time. At this time, the small collection was housed on the third floor of the university library, in the former Jesuit grammar school at Augustinergasse 15. However, it was not until 1866, under Zell’s successor Karl Bernhard Stark, that a separate Institute of Archaeology was founded within the university, from which the Institute of Art History would later split off. Stark’s successor Friedrich von Duhn was to play a key role in the history of the Collection of Classical Antiquities: With the help of extensive networks of colleagues and former students, he acquired large quantities of original antiquities and plaster casts. He rarely took the budget set by the university and the Baden Ministry of Finance into consideration, as further archive material shows. Von Duhn’s students included Robert Zahn and Rudolf Pagenstecher, numerous letters from whom are documented in the “Old Inventory”.

Several relocations took the collection and the institute, which was founded in 1866, from Augustinergasse 15 to Augustinergasse 7 on Universitätsplatz (then Ludwigplatz) in 1870 and finally to the Weinbrennerbau on the south side of the Marstallhof in 1929. A lack of space, the cultural policy of the National Socialists and finally the Second World War meant that numerous casts could not be moved to the Weinbrennerbau, but were stored for decades in various cellars and attics at the university. In the 1960s, the Weinbrenner Building was demolished and the current Kollegiengebäude, a highly controversial building in Heidelberg in terms of aesthetics, was erected. For the first time, casts and original artefacts were once again housed in the same building and were divided into the cast collection on the ground floor and the “Museum of Antiquities” on the 4th floor. The building has been under renovation since 2017, which offers the opportunity to completely redesign it. Once the renovation work is complete, the casts and originals will be exhibited together on the ground floor on an area of around 1,000 square metres.

The most important pieces in the Collection of Classical Antiquities include the so-called Name Vase of the Heidelberg Painter, several hundred objects found by Heinrich Schliemann in Troy, the plaster casts of the Elgin Marbles from the Athenian Parthenon acquired for the university’s anniversary in 1886 and the cast of the famous charioteer from Delphi, which previously stood in the salon of the Heidelberg sociologist Max Weber. Today, the collection belongs to the Institute of Classical Archaeology and Byzantine Archaeology and is also part of the Heidelberg Centre for Cultural Heritage (HCCH). Since its early days, the respective director of the Institute of Archaeology has also acted as head of the collection. It was not until 1963 that a separate curatorial position (“Konservator:in”) was established for this purpose, which was held from 1963-1993 by Hildegund Gropengiesser and from 1993-2017 by Hermann Pflug. Today, this position encompasses a wide range of tasks relating to administration, research, teaching and public relations, digital recording, online offerings from Instagram to YouTube, innovative project ideas and new exhibition formats. With the new concept, the collection will in future also address the general public to a greater extent than before. Projects such as the “Object & Provenance” blog offer the opportunity to involve citizens in ongoing research.

>>History of the collection on the webpage of the Institute (in German)

>>Overview of the collection in the web blog “das Rollpodest” (in German)

[ All images are by Polly Lohmann and are subject to copyright. ]

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