In Preparation for the Troy Exhibition at the British Museum: Lecture by Dr Andrew Shapland

Troy is a place we’ve all heard of. Some of us know what it is all about; some of us know that it was the location of a great war that took place sometime in history. But where is Troy? Why is it so famous? What is the Trojan War all about? How come its story has survived for this long – and how long is ‘this long’ anyway? As we were asking all these questions to ourselves in preparation for the exciting ‘Troy – Myth and Reality’ exhibition at the British Museum, Dr Andrew Shapland came to our rescue.

Dr Andrew Shapland is presently Sir Arthur Evans Curator of Bronze Age and Classical Greece at the Ashmolean Museum. Until 2018 he had been the Greek Bronze Age Curator at the British Museum for 10 years through which he had been closely involved in the preparation phases of the Troy exhibition. He very kindly accepted our invitation to give a talk on this very first major exhibition on Troy in the British Museum.

Dr Shapland did not fill us in with the myths and the stories, which we would learn about in two days at the exhibition, but instead he shed light on the mindset and methodology of exhibition curators. With a very clear presentation containing high quality photographs of objects from the exhibition, accompanied by refined explanations, Dr Shapland virtually walked us through the halls, highlighting certain objects and justifying the reasons behind choosing them. He told us about the political, historical, logistical and ethical difficulties of creating such an exhibition. The Trojan artefacts are spread out in different museums in Turkey (Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Museum of Troy), Russia (Pushkin Museum in Moscow, State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg) and Germany (Neues Museum). We learnt that Troy, as famous as it is, is not an easy subject for curators due to the complicated nature of the Trojan War - is it a myth or is it reality? When did it happen? Why did it happen? We were also told that this was the first time that the British Museum had opened a special exhibition on Troy - though it had had the opportunity in the 1870s when Schliemann offered his finds from the site – the offer was turned down due to lack of space.

Dr Shapland also told us about the contemporary objects that we would see in the exhibition. We were given insight into the human and woman experience in the war (myth?) and how this was reflected in the exhibition. It was thanks to Dr Shapland’s presentation that we knew what to expect and we were able to extract more meaning out of our exhibition visit on Feb 16th. This very satisfactory talk by Dr Shapland concluded with tea, coffee andcake in celebration of our very own Director Ed Herzig’s birthday.

Serra Somersan