Breaking Ground, Breaking Tradition First Generation of Women Archaeologists

Early Art and Archaeology Teaching Tools

Training students in archaeology at Bryn Mawr was very different a century ago than it is today. It is difficult to imagine the early days, when professors were limited to plaster casts, glass lantern slides, illustrated books, and files of documentary photographs. Bryn Mawr’s early art and archaeology teaching tools were state-of-the-art for the time, as a result of President M. Carey Thomas’s personal interest in, and resolute promotion of, these two fields.

Plaster Casts

Casts of classical sculpture were integral parts of the art historical and archaeological pedagogy of American colleges in the late nineteenth century. At Bryn Mawr, classical casts adorned the campus as early as 1893, when Mary E. Garrett, friend of President Thomas, lent the College twenty-eight marble copies of classical busts. At her suggestion, the busts were originally placed in the first floor entrance corridor and rooms of Taylor Hall. The busts were eventually passed on to The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, but the large bust of Juno Ludovisi, now in Carpenter Library, remained on campus. Garrett was devoted to the development of the departments of Classical Archaeology and History of Art, and, in addition to the busts, provided extensive personal funding to equip those departments with teaching aids, books and photographs.

Other important casts among Bryn Mawr’s early teaching resources included the Athena Lemnia plaster statue, and plaster casts of antique sculpture made from marble originals in the British Museum.

The Athena Lemnia plaster statue originally stood at the end of the front corridor of the original library in Taylor Hall. As the Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom and the arts, the Athena Lemnia was an inspiration to decades of students. After its exhibition in Philadelphia for the Bicentennial, the statue was returned to Thomas Great Hall. In 1997, Athena was moved to the present location, in a high alcove of the Rhys Carpenter Art and Archaeology Library. Athena II, made of fiberglass, was created by Jan Trembley, a Latin major from the Bryn Mawr class of 1975, to accept votives in the Great Hall.

The casts of the Amazonomachy Freize from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos and the South Metopes from the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis were originally mounted in Taylor Hall, along with numerous other casts of Classical and Renaissance art works. These casts created an atmosphere for learning in the College’s early assembly hall and provided inspiration from the antique in the corridors outside the original library. A selection of these casts is now mounted on the Rhys Carpenter Library Wall of Honor.

Documentary Photographs

Documentary photographs were the primary teaching tools for the emerging archaeology programs. Photographs allowed students to obtain accurate and detailed views of ancient sites, monuments, and sculpture. Bryn Mawr developed an extensive collection largely through the generosity of Mary Garrett, who donated both photographs and money. Among the nineteenth-century photographs acquired through Garrett are approximately 4,000 albumen photographs of European and Mediterranean area sites. The images are primarily of architectural monuments, but they also include sculpture, painting, and decorative arts. This core collection of photographs was used for many decades by the History of Art and Archaeology departments for classroom teaching.

Among the most valuable of Mary Garrett’s gifts was a collection of photographs by Adolphe Braun. The collection was initially placed at the disposal of Professor Richard Norton, who illustrated his courses on Greek and Italian art and archaeology with them. Braun’s images of classical sculpture in the Louvre and Vatican Museums went beyond documentary photography, and are now regarded as modern art photography due to their superior lighting and detail. The carbon process does not deteriorate with age as some later processes. The College’s holdings include 32 Braun photographs of classical sculpture and other Braun images of the Medici Tombs by Michelangelo in Florence.

Also among the College’s early teaching resources were hundreds of high-quality photographs of antique sculpture, housed in seminar rooms where students could consult them. The photographs were in two collections compiled by German scholars and publishers, and they enabled remote works of art to be studied for style, surface detail, and artistic effect, even with the limitations of foreshortening and variable lighting. These collections, now rare, are housed in Bryn Mawr’s Carpenter Library.

Glass Lantern Slides

Illustration of classroom lectures with glass lantern slides began in American colleges in the middle of the nineteenth century. Bryn Mawr adopted this technology early on, and built a substantial collection of teaching slides, containing primarily slides duplicated from printed images. Glass lantern slides were made by developing the images onto one glass sheet, and then placing them under cover glass and binding them with paper tape. Lantern slides were the staple of research collections before the availability of 35mm film stock in the middle of the twentieth century.

In the era of black-and-white photography, color images were created by hand-coloring the slides, the process used for these two famous images: the funerary mask of King Tutankhamen from the Cairo Museum, and the limestone bust of Queen Nefertiti, found at Amarna in 1913 during German excavations and placed on display in Berlin in 1922, from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Close examination reveals the irregular strokes of a watercolor brush.

Stereoscope and Stereographic Cards

Stereoscope viewers and stereographic cards of ancient sites were used as an archaeological teaching resource in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. First invented in 1838, stereoscopic photography creates a three-dimensional illusion from a pair of two-dimensional images, providing depth to photographs. The early archaeology professors of Bryn Mawr acquired a stereoscope and stereographic card library of ancient Egyptian sites for use as a teaching tool. It is likely that Caroline Ransom used this equipment to illustrate her courses on Egyptian art and archaeology, in conjunction with albumen photographs.


Electrotypes of original metalwork antiquities were, like plaster casts, an important early pedagogical teaching tool for archaeology courses. At Bryn Mawr, the professors made use of a collection of electrotype reproductions of the precious metal objects found in the Shaft Graves of Mycenae.