Arts Centre's Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities heralds return of UC to the CBD
The opening of the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities in the Arts Centre of Christchurch this weekend represents not only the return of the University of Canterbury's Classics Department to the central city.
Co-curator in classical antiquities Penny Minchin-Garvin says that it also comes with the University's finest taonga: The Logie Collection.
Discussing the collection's new home, she reveals that its opening exhibition, We Could Be Heroes: The Gods and Heroes of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, is not simply referring to the classical mythological figures that reside within the Logie Collection's 370 objects; its vases, statues, figurines, mosaics and coins.
"Our thinking behind the exhibition's title is the earthquake, giving tribute to the fact that we have all survived and also that the University has decided to come back to the inner-city and help with the revitalisation of the city. And there are also heroes who came to our rescue: Alumnus Professor David Teece and his wife, Leigh Teece, who donated funds to support the refurbishment of the old Chemistry Building in the Arts Centre and create the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities."
There are many good reasons for Christchurch residents and national and international visitors to be excited about the collection's relocation. Minchin-Garvin says that "one of the success stories coming out of the earthquakes is that the Logie Collection has come through it in its entirety, and it has not just been saved but rejuvenated. Bringing it into the city not only opens it up for the public as a teaching resource, it also brings the strengths of the University with it in a range of disciplines."
Co-curator Terri Elder agrees and points to the expanding education programme that will be built around its future. "We have an exhibition catalogue and a series of public events as well. Talks in the Arts Centre will take place throughout the year and there will also be things like a colouring competition for children. The shift will take the collection into new directions."
Such is the quality of the Logie Collection that over the past 60 years it has been the subject of international publications and applauded as the best teaching collection of classical vases in the Southern Hemisphere. For the inaugural exhibition, in addition to its black-and-red-figure Grecian vases, 19 works have been borrowed from the Canterbury and Otago museums, Te Papa and private collections.
The Collection has its origins in the enthusiasm and commitment of Marion Stevens, who had studied Greek and Classics at Canterbury in 1938, later teaching in Classics at the University from 1944 to 1977. Minchin-Garvin describes her as being "mad about pots. She started to collect vases around 1949. It was after the Second World War and there were lots of vases circulating through Europe for sale and trade at the time. She was very canny in the way she acquired objects as she was looking for them for teaching purposes."
In 1950, she married James Logie, University Registrar, and following his death and the gift of her collection to the University in 1957, the James Logie Memorial Collection was established as a tribute to her husband.
How badly affected was the collection by the earthquakes? "One of the ethical questions that we discussed with the conservator was whether you hide the earthquake damage or not. It was decided that our earthquake was part of the history of the object so new break lines were shown and not over-painted.
"The collection was damaged in the November 2010 earthquakes with 264 needed treatment with 68 requiring major repairs and nine minor repairs. No objects were damaged beyond repair and there was also a silver lining to the earthquakes for the collection. There was immediate international concern about whether it had survived and the University was quick to respond with insurers quickly coming on board for the conservation of works.
"When we had all the works back at the University, cleaned and conserved by the end of 2012, we were able to carry on showing them. The conservation was an improvement on previously cracked and repaired items. I could get a vase or vessel out of the cupboard and put it right in front of visitors. It could be seen by them without any barrier. Also, with recent technology the conservation was an improvement on previously cracked and repaired items."
What can visitors to We Could Be Heroes: The Gods and Heroes of the Ancient Greeks expect to see? "We have heroes in all aspects of the collection. The exhibition is based around objects that reference gods or heroes in antiquity and some of our own 'hero pieces' will appear on display. They include the Stilt Walkers' vase (540 – 530BC). It seems to represent a troupe of actors on stilts on one side and on the other is Kaineus (a woman changed into a man by Poseidon) overcome in battle by centaurs. Kaineus is lying on top of the ground and this is the only vase in the world in which he is lying on top the ground, rather than half in and half out of the ground.
"The Panathenaic Amphora attributed to the Acheloos Painter ca 500 BC is also rare. It is a souvenir from the Panathenaic games. Someone may have gone to the games and they might not have won anything so they bought this instead. Athena is on the front and back and there are only five in the world with this particular picture on it of her with a shield with the hind quarters of a horse on it, most likely denoting the most powerful part of a horse.
"The relocation of the Logie Collection is exciting because the collection has always been accessible to the public, but less so at the Ilam Campus. People who have found that difficult will now be able to come and see objects that are 3,000 years old in the city centre. This is the first and only museum of antiquities in New Zealand. I think that the University will miss the Logie collection on campus, but now there are many reasons to come here. How wonderful for Christchurch."
We Could Be Heroes: The gods and heroes of the ancient Greeks and Romans, May 20 to October 29. Opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 3pm, Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities at the University of Canterbury, Ground Floor, Chemistry Building, The Arts Centre, 3 Hereford Street. An illustrated catalogue has been produced to accompany the exhibition, We Could Be Heroes, published by Canterbury University Press. It can be purchased from the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities.