The museum

The museum

Museum of Ancient Cultures museum banner

Cypriot Bichrome Ware amphora (MU 3757).

The Museum of Ancient Cultures is a leading museum of Macquarie University which supports a range of museums, collections, art galleries, a sculpture park and herbarium.

Photo of the museumIt is an archaeological museum that introduces modern minds to a number of cultures from the ancient world through its research and publications, learning, teaching and outreach programs, its displays and exhibitions and its involvement in the activities of the University.

The Museum of Ancient Cultures was originally founded in 1974 as the Ancient History Teaching Collection (AHTC). Various members of staff, including the late Mr Graham Joyner, Emeritus Professor Edwin Judge and Emeritus Professor Bruce Harris were eager to see the development of such a collection.

In 1994, following the completion of Building X5B, with a tailor-made space for the Ancient History Teaching Collection, its name was changed to the Museum of Ancient Cultures. At the time, a national committee was investigating the situation of Australian university museums, and they strongly supported the idea of this name change to reflect what they saw as the proper status of Macquarie's archaeological collection as a museum. The work of this, and a subsequent, committee, was published as Cinderella Collections (1996) and Transforming Cinderella Collections (1998), which formed the basis of an international movement to identify and recognize the role and work of university museums, collections and herbaria. In turn, this culminated in the formation of UMAC, a subcommittee of ICOM. Macquarie University and the Museum of Ancient Cultures played a significant foundation role in this general movement.

The development of an archaeological collection, especially of inscriptional material, was seen as an excellent adjunct to the study of Ancient History from a source-based approach. It was also the view of our founding scholars that a collection of archaeological material that represented the every-day life of past cultures would be a very useful way to explore the arts, crafts, technology and design of ancient peoples as it reflected changes to their social, economic, political and religious development.

Welcome message from the Museum Director 

This Museum is an Ancient History/ Archaeology museum designed to support the teaching of undergraduate and postgraduate programs on offer at Macquarie University within the department of Ancient History. It also promotes Ancient History and Archaeology to the primary and secondary schools of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory as well as to the broader general community.

The Museum of Ancient Cultures (MAC) was conceived to show elements of everyday life in the ancient world as the guiding principle to its on-going development. In this way modern minds can contemplate the lives and thoughts of past people and come to appreciate the work they have done before us.

This site is designed to show information about activities and events associated with the Museum, about artefacts (and new additions) to our collections as well as about the collections themselves, about the programs we offer and the resources we have developed, including teaching resources. There are also links to organisations and museums associated with us.

Through periodic updating, this site will also share our news with users.

We hope you will enjoy the site and be in touch with us when you have suggestions or wish to make enquiries.

Karl Van Dyke

Director

The exhibition area

The main display area of the Museum is divided largely on geographical grounds with some thematic displays interspersed throughout. This area, along with the Papyrus research room and the Gallery are high security areas with environmental controls to regulate temperature and relative humidity, set at international standards.

The display areas exhibit material from:

  1. Ancient Egypt - spanning from the Pre-Dynastic to the Late periods
  2. Ancient Greek culture - from Minoan and Mycenaean material to the Hellenistic period
  3. Ancient Roman culture - from the Villanovan and Etruscan periods to the fifth century AD
  4. The culture of Ancient Cyprus - from Early Cypriot to the Late Iron Ages
  5. Some of the cultures of the Ancient Near East - from the early 3rd millennium BC to the Late Iron Age.

While most of the collection belongs to the University, we also have loan material made available to us by other organisations, such as the Australian Museum and the Institute of Archaeology, Melbourne. In the past, we have also had loan material from the Powerhouse Museum and the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney, as well as from private individuals and collectors. We are grateful for this loan material and thank our lenders for their consideration and support.

Over the years we have also been fortunate to acquire material through benefaction and donation from both individuals as well as from funds provided by supporting organisations such as the History Teachers' Association (NSW), the Macquarie Ancient History Association (MAHA) and the Society for the Study of Early Christianity (SSEC).

We publicly acknowledge the on-going support of our donors, benefactors and supporting organisations, and thank them for it.

Funds raised through our Education Program have also been used to purchase material on the international market. Such material is sourced from registered dealers and international auction houses.

The papyrus collection

The Museum also has the largest papyrus collection in the southern hemisphere with material written in Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphs, hieratic, Hebrew and Coptic.

This is housed in a purpose-built research room. The papyrus fragments are stored horizontally, sandwiched between sheets of cleaned, 3mm glass in specially adapted metal cabinets. The trays of these cabinets, which are powder coated and have no off-gassing, are lined with acid free paper to cushion the stored, sandwiched papyrus fragments. These are arranged numerically in the cabinets.

In 2008 a papyrus subcommittee to the MAC Management Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Dr Trevor Evans with Dr Malcolm Choat as Deputy Chair; both of these academics are Core appointments to the University. This subcommittee has developed a publication schedule for the collection, is coordinating research projects linked to the collection and coordinates requests by interested academics for joint or individual research and publication requests.

Any such requests, or for further information about the papyrus collection, please contact Dr Evans at trevor.evans@mq.edu.au in the first instance, or the Museum Director at karl.vandyke@mq.edu.au

The Gallery

The Museum has set aside a small space as a Gallery for short-term exhibitions. In the past this has seen exhibitions as diverse as SilverPlus, an exhibit of exquisite modern works by some of Australia's leading silver smiths, a modern Chinese art exhibition, the paintings of Don Barker, and a photographic and illustrative exhibition of Pompeii. The latter highlighted the excavation work of the Anglo-American Project and the ceramic research being carried out by Dr Jaye MacKenzie-Clark.

New acquisitions

The Museum collection is continuously growing and new acquisitions are displayed in separate cases in the Main Exhibition Area until they are added to the main display of their relevant cultures. (In the foreseeable future, we plan to put up some of our new acquisitions on this web site.)

Where possible we add to our collection with material that we excavate, when such material is released to us by the relevant authorities.

Donations and benefactions

If you or your company would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Museum, or if you would like to make a benefaction to the University, to support the Museum, by making suitable provision in your will, please contact the Director, Karl Van Dyke on (02) 9850 9263 or at karl.vandyke@mq.edu.au to discuss details and to make arrangements.

The Foundation for the Study of Ancient Cultures

This Foundation was set up using a very generous donation by Mrs Monica Anderson to support the growth, development and expansion of activities by the Museum of Ancient Cultures.

Donations to this Foundation are tax-deductible.

If you would like to make a donation to this Foundation or would like to set up a Foundation of your own on behalf of your family or company to help the further development of the Museum, please contact the Director, Karl Van Dyke on (02) 9850 9263 or e-mail: karl.vandyke@mq.edu.au to discuss details and to make arrangements.

The Sir Asher Joel Foundation

The Sir Asher Joel Foundation promotes the study of the ancient history of Israel and furthers the association in this and other fields of study between Macquarie University and Tel Aviv university. The Foundation both sends students to work in Israel , and brings international experts on ancient Israel and Judaism to Australia . It also sponsors exhibitions on related material.

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