History of the Museum

The museum was originally established in 1882, just six years after the founding of Johns Hopkins University.  The mission of the museum was to encourage and enliven the study of the ancient world through the close study of artifacts.  Early course listings show the centrality of the museum collection in the teaching and study of archaeology, classics and art.  Until 1916, the museum collection was housed in McCoy Hall, in downtown Baltimore where the Hopkins campus was located at the time.

The archaeological collection on display, ca. 1915, at the Johns Hopkins Old Campus. Many of the artifacts seen in this image are currently on view in our new museum. Image courtesy of the Johns Hopkins University Archives.

Faculty at Johns Hopkins have written wonderful and evocative descriptions of the museum collection in the past. Professor Ralph Van Deman Magoffin (Classics) wrote passionately in The Classical Weekly in January 1916 that, “The Museum of Classical Antiquities at Johns Hopkins University serves more and more year to year the purpose for which it was founded, namely to furnish material for purposes of University instruction and to offer the Schools of Baltimore and vicinity a means of increasing their efficiency in the teaching of Classics and ancient history.”  Soon after Magoffin published this account, the museum moved to the Homewood campus where it was housed within Gilman Hall, the center of the study of the Humanities at Hopkins.

the museum in the 1970s

The museum display ca. 1978 in its old Gilman space. Image courtesy of Terry Drayman-Weisser.

In 2006, with Gilman Hall slated for an exciting and complete renovation, it was decided that the museum collection should be showcased and made visible and accessible.  After having been packed away in storage for nearly four years, the Archaeological Museum re-opened in Gilman Hall in its beautiful new space on December 5th, 2010, and is now a place of study, teaching and research as originally intended.