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Lecture: Engaging History—The Athenian Agora Museum in the Stoa of Attalos

October 15, 2015
Morton Auditorium

When the excavators of the Athenian Agora were unable to find a location for an onsite museum to hold the materials they were uncovering, a radical solution was proposed: reconstruct one of the ancient buildings. Today, the Stoa of Attalos not only provides ample space for storage, research, and the display of objects, but also enables visitors to experience this common type of ancient public building. 

The history of Athens from the Neolithic to Byzantine periods is told in burial gifts, domestic decoration, and marble portraits throughout the Agora museum. Objects illustrating the institutions and civic life of Athenian democracy are particular highlights, and the museum allows for interaction among these objects, the archaeological site, and the stoa architecture. Models are arranged within the upper colonnade so that they can be viewed in concert with the ancient remains, and original wall blocks of the stoa serve as pedestals for prehistoric pottery. 

Some of the museum's most historically important and beautiful objects are featured in this illustrated lecture, fostering an appreciation for both the ancient site itself and the skill involved in curating a museum experience. 

Laura Gawlinski is associate professor and chair of the Department of Classical Studies at Loyola University, Chicago.

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The museum in the Stoa of Attalos. Photo by Laura Gawlinski.