In spring 2019 the Classics Department at Johns Hopkins launched an exciting initiative for undergraduates: a research “laboratory” in which students can enroll for credit as they would any normal course. Each lab project will be different, but each will engage students in direct, empirical research connected to the current work of the faculty member in charge. Some projects will complete their work in a semester, others may be ongoing or intermittent; in the latter case, students may join for just a term, or return.
The John Addington Symonds Project (JASP)
launched spring 2019, continued fall 2019
PIs: Shane Butler, Classics, and Gabrielle Dean, Sheridan Libraries
The John Addington Symonds Project (JASP) investigates the work of the Victorian writer John Addington Symonds, author of one of the first major studies of Ancient Greek sexuality, which was privately printed in ten copies and circulated anonymously. The lab so far has been engaged in two major efforts. The first is to produce a digital edition of the various redactions of Symonds’s groundbreaking essay. The second, more ambitious, is to reconstruct the contents of his private library. The results of the lab’s work appear in real time on its website, where users can already read the 1897 version and browse hundreds of books Symonds is known to have owned. The lab currently is paused while Prof. Butler is on sabbatical completing a book on Symonds, but its work will resume after his return.
Antioch Recovery Project (ARP)
launched spring 2020
PI: Jennifer Stager, History of Art
The Antioch Recovery Project (ARP) investigates mosaics from the ancient city of Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey, near the border with Syria) now in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art. Excavated by an international team of archaeologists in the 1930s, hundreds of ancient mosaics from the cosmopolitan city were subsequently dispersed to museums across the globe, with over thirty mosaics entering the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Phase I of this research-driven course focused on three chronological groups: Ancient Antioch, The Excavations, and Museum Afterlives.
The Peabody Cast Collection (PCC)
launched fall 2020
PI: Emily Anderson, Classics
The Peabody Cast Collection (PCC) project revolves around a remarkable collection of plaster casts of classical Greek and Roman sculptures, created ca. 1879 for the pioneering Peabody Institute (now part of JHU), a gift of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad baron John Work Garrett. Such cast collections were a highly valued cultural resource in Europe and North America during the later 17th-early 20th centuries. Because of the technical process of the cast formation, based directly upon the ancient sculptural surface, these collections brought contact with the actual classical artifacts into temporally and spatially distant contexts—including the burgeoning urban space of 19th century Baltimore. The Peabody’s collection of 157 casts was on display from 1881 into the 1930s, before being gradually dispersed and the remainder sold to the State of Maryland. The current whereabouts of many of the casts is unknown while others have suffered under poor conditions. The PCC lab’s initial undertaking will be archival and field research to ascertain the objects’ biographies and locations. Production of a virtual exhibition will involve 3D reconstruction of the casts’ original display contexts within the Peabody based on hand-written ledgers and photographs. More than merely a tool, the digital software will also stimulate our consideration of the plaster casts themselves, as an earlier technology for the virtual reproduction and artificial gathering of dispersed originals, thus highlighting questions of replication, authenticity and access pertinent to the ongoing history of the collection and city. A second lab phase would potentially involve conservation and display of casts at JHU.