Nicholson Museum, University of Sydney, Camperdown, Sydney, NSW, Australia
The Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney is home to the largest collection of antiquities in both Australia and the southern Hemisphere. Founded in 1860, the collection spans the ancient world with primary collection areas including Greece, Italy, Egypt, Cyprus, and the Near East.
The Nicholson Museum is named after its founder, Sir Charles Nicholson. In 1856-57, Nicholson traveled throughout Egypt and then Italy where he acquired the first thousand or so primarily Egyptian, Greek, South Italian and Etruscan artefacts. These he donated to the University in 1860. The museum’s collection has grown exponentially since this founding donation. Individual benefaction, donations, sponsored archaeological projects and curatorial acquisition have all contributed to the wealth of material now housed by the Nicholson Museum.
Egyptian Collection - The Egyptian collection of the Nicholson Museum includes artefacts from a variety of ancient sites including Abydos, Alexandria, Bubastis, Fayum, Heliopolis, Memphis, Saqqara, and Thebes.
Cypriot Collection Beginning in 1860 with a single artefact from the original donation by Sir Charles Nicholson, the collection grew exponentially, especially under the curatorial direction of firstly William Woodhouse (honorary curator 1903-1938) and then James Stewart (honorary curator 1954-1962). Many of the artefacts within the collection were sourced directly from Stewart’s own excavations conducted at Bellapais Vounous, Karmi Palealona, Karmi Lapasta, Nicosia Ayia Paraskevi and Vasilia Kafkallia as well as from the excavations of at the sites of Myrtou Stephania and Myrtou Sphagion, conducted by Stewart’s former student Basil Hennessy who later became Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Sydney. As a result of these acquisitions, the Museum holds many complete tomb groups of archaeological importance.
Greek Collection The Nicholson Museum’s Greek collections contains artefacts representative of the material culture of the Greek mainland, islands and surrounding regions, from the Bronze Age through to the Late Hellenistic period.During Sir Charles Nicholson’s travels to Egypt and Europe between 1856 and 1858 he acquired, primarily in Rome, a range of Classical and Hellenistic Greek ceramics as well as terracotta figurines. In total over seventy significant Greek artefacts were included in the founding donation of the Nicholson Museum. Further material, representative of the Greek mainland and islands, was bought during the curatorship of A.D. Trendall. His proactive acquisition program involved purchasing a wide range of ceramic types of Greek origin as well as significant contributions of sherd material for teaching purposes sought from prominent museums and individual collectors and scholars, including Sir John Beazley. The collection was then expanded following a donation of hundreds of pottery fragments and small votive objects by the family of former curator William J Woodhouse in 1948. The majority of this material is thought to have been collected during Woodhouse’s 1890s and 1930s trips to Greece, documented in the Woodhouse photographic collection.
Near Eastern Collection The Nicholson Museum’s collection of Near Eastern artefacts represents many of the great cities and civilisations that flourished along the Levantine coast, across Mesopotamia and through to Pakistan and India. The Near Eastern collection began with just a handful of artefacts from Ur, donated by the British Museum in 1926. This was greatly expanded upon in the mid 20th century by the acquisition program of the curators A.D. Trendall and his successor James Stewart. Both curators wrote countless letters to museums and government agencies around the world requesting representative samples of artefacts to ensure the Nicholson Museum’s holdings reflected the diversity of this expansive region. The University of Sydney also contributed financially to archaeological excavations and projects in the Near East, most notably Dame Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations at Jericho. In return for the University's support the Nicholson Museum received a consignment of objects at the end of each season including full tomb groups from the Bronze Age and rare finds such as our Neolithic over plastered skull. Other items have been acquired through generous donations of individual archaeologists, including Sir Leonard Woolley and Sir Flinders Petrie, as well as from archaeological institutes, museums and private donors.