Ancient Greek history appears in plaster cast form at Cal

One of the Parthenon Frieze panels in Dwinelle Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. Photos: Tracey Taylor.

You no longer need to travel to the British Museum in London, or to Athens, to see at least some of the creative wonders of the Parthenon.

Last weekend saw the installation on the UC Berkeley campus of a series of plaster cast panels of the Parthenon Frieze in the main lobby of Dwinelle Hall, which houses the university’s Classics department.

According to the Classics department, in the late 19th and early 20th century it was common for universities in Europe and the U.S. to acquire plaster casts of famous Greek and Roman sculptures. These were exhibited to help students of ancient art, fine arts and art practice, since, in the Beaux Arts tradition, study and drawing of masterworks of the past were strong components of the curriculum.

UC Berkeley had such a teaching collection, but with the changes in 20th-century art and art education it ceased to be used and was placed in storage. With some effort, Emeritus Professor Stephen Miller located the casts, many of which were stored in unsuitable conditions. The original owners of the Parthenon frieze is the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.


Professor Miller worked to get the university’s cast collection protected from further damage and eventually was able to lead a couple of graduate classes in study and restoration of a limited number of the important pieces.

For more information on the casts collection visit UC Berkeley’s Casts website.