The British Museum Final Report INTERNATIONAL TRAINING ... · PDF file The British Museum...
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The British Museum
INTERNATIONAL TRAINING PROGRAMME 2016
Ana Šverko, Dipl.Eng.Arch., MUD, PhD, graduated in architecture from the Faculty of
Architecture University of Zagreb in 1998, received MUD from UC Berkeley CED in 2002,
and PhD from the University of Zagreb in 2011.
Research associate at the Institute of Art History - Cvito Fisković Centre Split
Supported by the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust
I live in Split, a city that grew out of Diocletian's Palace, built in Later Antiquity, and all my
professional life has unfolded in the presence of this monument. I have thus taken part in the
documentation of archaeological researches in the Palace, and devoted my undergraduate and
graduate theses. Today my professional activity is oriented to two main aspects: one is the
preservation of the Palace as a live and populated monument, and the other is the perception
of the edifice over the course of time.
The Peristyle of Diocletian's Palace. (Photo by Zoran Alajbeg)
My everyday activity covers research into the heritage, with a special focus on research into
Diocletian's Palace and its presentation in works of European, particularly British, travel
writers and artists in the 18th and 19th centuries and its scholarly and theoretical
My responsibilities in the Institute of Art History, Cvito Fiskovic Centre in Split include:
processing and systematising art historic material; publication of research results; the
organisation of scholarly conferences of national and international in scope; collaboration in
museum work; working together with Split University in scholarly work and delivery of the
curriculum; collaboration on the protection and renovation of monuments; creation of an
appropriate information system (humanities research database); popularisation of research in
the area of art and architectural history; collaborations with scholarly and specialised
institutions at home and abroad.
The sphinx on the Peristyle. (Photo by Zoran Alajbeg)
So Diocletian's Palace, a Roman monument filled with Egyptian influences, from the
columns and Egyptian temples to the sphinxes that grace it, is practically a museum, a live
museum. This edifice is a starting point for a number of interests with which I deal in my
work, and which I expected to advance during the ITP: primarily by scholarly research into
the collections, by gaining the knowledge of planning and delivery of exhibitions. One of the
key objectives of the Institute of Art History is the presentation of the results of our research,
for which purpose we are developing collaborative ventures with museums; the process of
mounting exhibitions was especially challenging for me at the British Museum.
My particular interest is in Roman heritage and ancient heritage in general, so the Department
of Greece and Rome at the British Museum is certainly where I expected to expand my
horizons and acquire the finest knowledge of these subjects.
Collections databases; libraries & archives and exhibitions were museum areas that I was
particularly interested in learning about during the ITP, because I wanted to acquire
knowledge about the organisation of museum materials, as well as about the organisation of
exhibitions. I was also excited to learn more about fundraising and marketing, for in Croatian
conditions we are often faced with a shortfall of such skills when it comes to the presentation
and publication of the results of our research.
As a researcher into the history of architecture, I always wonder and endeavour to find out
what my topic might be moving towards – I am interested in the future of the research and
find that the transformation of scholarly investigation into exhibitions is the finest way to
fulfil my objectives.
Scholarly research is a search for truth and beauty in the past that helps us understand and to
live the present better, to plan for a better future.
Sharing the results of research with the academic community is exceptionally valuable and
worthwhile, but to succeed in the right way in presenting research to the wider audience for
cultural matters is a complex matter and a still greater challenge.
Now, after this programme, I can conclude that the ITP experience in the British Museum
was for me a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The experience in the British Museum, in which I had the opportunity to become acquainted
with every phase of this complex process of the transformation of scholarly research into an
exhibition, including conversation and interpretation, legal and economic issues, design and
dialogue with the audience, the educational role of an exhibition and many other phases
afforded me a foundation for being able to devote myself to participating in this splendid
Room 3 at the British Museum. (Photo by Joanna Fernandes)
I was particularly glad and grateful for the ability to work so closely together with
international experts dedicated to the historical heritage, for I believe that connectedness via
the history of art and culture, via joint exhibitions and projects is a way in which the world
can be intertwined with the finest of all links.
ITP group after one of many workshops. (Photo by Joanna Fernandes)
I feel happy and privileged at the chance of the new and, I believe, fruitful international
collaborations, learning and exchange of experiences that this programme will provide me.
Another great experience was our time spent at the Bristol Museums and Art Gallery where
we enjoyed great hospitality and professional devotion from all colleagues in the Museums,
particulary Sue Giles and Kate Newnham. It was a fantastic experience to have so great an
insight into this group of Museums, with an outstandingly interesting combination of
archaeology, natural history and the fine arts. We saw historic houses with the original
content, and new and exciting, extremely interactive M-shed museum, devoted to the history
of Bristol in many diverse acpects. The whole system of the Bristol Museums, Galleries,
Historic Houses and Archives was extremely interesting, and the programme was very
compatible with programme that we had attended at the British Museum.
ITP participants at The Bristol Museums. (Photo by Joanna Fernandes)
The highlight of my stay was working in the Greek and Roman Department, as well as the
understanding the importance of the interpretation of research and the possibility of
international collaboration, and, above all, the sense of belonging to a family of scholars
dedicated to the cultural heritage and its presentation.
I am very happy that I have had a chance to participate in the fantastic ‘Room 3’ exercise; to
choose a single object and design around it an imaginary museum exhibition. My wish was to
build the feature around a great book on Diocletian’s Palace at Split by Robert Adam, a
famed British architect who first systematically studied Diocletian’s Palace in the mid-18th
century and made it known worldwide. Since the departure of the British Library, there is no
copy of Adams’s great work in the British Museum, but thanks to the enthusiastic support of
Dr Ian Jenkins and courtesy of The Travellers Club in London the book was borrowed for
this occasion, and I was delighted to design a whole story around it with new knowledge and
experience gained during the ITP.
Robert Adam’s book about the Diocletian’s palace at the exhibition. (Photo by Ana Šverko)
This practical application of knowledge was a beautiful opportunity for me. I am particularry
grateful to Ian Jenkins and Celeste Farge from the Greek and Roman Department for their
great help regarding this one-object exhibition project. It was a fantastic experience not only
because it tested my own work, but also because of the beauty of the diverse objects and
stories that my colleagues have brought to this occasion.
The next step in my work is to prepare an exhibition that shows Diocletian’s palace over the
course of time, from Antiquity onwards. My contribution in this project is of my particular
interest, as it would be one of the most valuable outcomes of my long-term study of
Diocletian's Palace. The structure of the exhibition would be founded on the book of Robert
Adam as well.
I believe that Croatia has a series of other monuments apart from Diocletian's Palace that
deserve international presentation, and the ITP experience was of enormous use to me. My
institution (Institute of Art History) aspires towards international collaboration and exchange
of knowledge, and thus the very fact that I studied in such a highly reputed museum was of
the greatest benefit. My wish is to put more emphasis on international collaboration in my
future work, and to help direct our mission to connect specific art histories from all over the
world – and this is something that we can st