Saturday, March 21
Sites Visited: British Museum, Parthenon Galleries
Where did we stay tonight?: London
Leaders: Ben Kahn and Kathryn Mammel
After years of studying classical art and archaeology in the classroom, we officially kicked off the 2009 Classics FSP to Greece today not in Greece but in London, face to face with the best of the Parthenon sculpture—conveniently “rescued” from Greece by Lord Elgin in the early nineteenth century to decorate his town house and handed over to the British Museum not long afterwards to settle Lord Elgin’s debts.
We—that is, the group (minus Jerry Guo, who will be joining us tomorrow), Professor Christesen, and our TA Sarah Murray—began the afternoon at 1:00 on the front lawn of the British Museum. After a rousing introduction by Professor Christesen about our purpose and our mission for the next eleven weeks and a quiz (what would the first day of classes with Professor Christesen be without a quiz and a substantial preparatory assignment?!), we had twenty minutes to survey what we could of the British Museum before getting to work.
Our task this afternoon was a straightforward and enlightening one. Divided into groups, we analyzed sculpture from the east pediment, the south metopes, and the frieze of the Parthenon and presented our analysis to the group (see pictures below). Particularly amusing was the way tourists would stop and join our group, listening to us as if we were curators or tour guides.
Seeing the sculptures in the flesh rather than on the text book page or the power point slide was a powerful experience. Walking around the sculpture and viewing it from different angles and distances, we got a sense for how the sculpture might have been experienced by its original audience (or as good an idea as one can get viewing it on eye level—more importantly—apart from the Parthenon itself). The remarkable degree of detail, the impressive scale of the figures, and the interaction of the figures with one another became apparent to us in a way it never had in the classroom. (See, Mom and Dad, you’re already getting your money’s worth).
After an afternoon of presentations, we headed our separate ways to check into the hostel, get dinner, and tackle our first paper. And so it begins…
Introductory Video for day 1:
First Timers entering the Parthenon Gallery!: