Museum of Classical Archaeology Sean Borodale

Museum of Classical Archaeology


Often referred to as the ‘Ark’, the museum is one of Cambridge’s hidden gems. It houses one of the largest collections of plaster casts of Greek and Roman statues in the world..  The casts were originally gathered in the late 19th century, and remain a marvellous way to experience these masterpieces of ancient art. The casts give back a third-dimension to the allure of classical mythology and the romance of the Greek gods.  One of  the advantages of casts is that: should works such as the Parthenon Marbles ever go back to their country of origin, the casts will still be here to be studied and appreciated.

Image: Aphrodite of Cnidus

Roman copy of the Aphrodite of Cnidus by the fourth-century Greek sculptor Praxiteles, famous for being the first sculpture of the goddess Aphrodite that showed her naked.

Sean Borodale


Sean Borodale works as an artist and writer, making scriptive and documentary poems written on location. He was Northern Arts Fellow of the Wordsworth Trust in 1999 and Guest Artist at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam in 2002. From 2002-7 he was a teaching fellow at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. His long topographical poem Notes for an Atlas was recommended by Robert Macfarlane in the Guardian Summer Books 2005. It was performed in 2007 at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, directed by Mark Rylance, as part of the first London Festival of Literature. Recent projects include Grey Matter with artist Jonathan Houlding which included a residency at the Fundacion Pilar i Joan Miro, Mallorca, 2009. Bee Journal, his debut full-length collection of poems was published by Jonathan Cape in 2012. He lives in Somerset.

Sean Borodale


Nike of Paionios in Plaster of Paris Sean Borodale

Most are austere, fragmented, absorbed in a wound,

locked to a mirror in a mirror.

Musicians go first, with the old, or the lame,

but there is no sound.

It’s like a mime, held breath, Helios.


We have to stand dedicating lengths of our time

as they survive, mutely as we do, in photos or death.

Lifted from Hades’ struggling shadow

they have all turned pale


in wedding-cake-white, bony cement.


Like animals on the ark, they must be thirsty

in uniform plaster; oddly supported on crutches, thin air,

utterly breakable.


Nike, for instance, a shattered array of mid-air wing,

tampered by event;

I am ruined with her, air-franked apart.

But it’s the face, blown-off, nearest, and the hissing bit of

breathless lung,

like a breathing she has to lift from the stomach.

It does not self-repair, this kind of damage.


And it’s quarantine here, for mysteries and illness

and visitors slowed right down to time-lapse like us.

She is our idea;

a residual instant of a tide-mark’s remnant.


Her light is a kind of glue; our shared time is warped.

Museum of Classical Archaeology


Archived posts

The view from the audience

04th March 2013 | 0 Comment(s) | Cambridge University LibraryFitzwilliam MuseumMuseum of Classical ArchaeologyThe Polar MuseumWhipple Museum of the History of Science

As a member of the audience the Threshold Project has been a surprising experience. The great Don Patterson humbly read his poems while standing behind a chair and said his favorite object in the Whipple Museum of the History of Sciences collection is an instrument that focuses on artificial horizons.

A week later at lunchtime I passed a sign in the grass saying NO LANGUAGE GAMES while walking to hear Sean Borodale read from his astounding Bee Journal at the Museum of Classical Archeology. 

The next event was at the University Library at teatime with Gillian Clarke and Imtiaz Dharker both fresh from teaching a workshop with young Peterborough students who were so galvanized by the experience that they clapped enthusiastically after each poem. 

The following evening was at the Fitzwilliam to hear part of the emotive dramatic poem ‘Pink Mist’ by Owen Sheers after which he mentioned that in years gone by summer sunbathing on the roof of the Fitz was a popular pastime for staff.  Finally last Thursday at 6:00pm we gathered for Jo Shapcott’s compelling radio verse play ‘Erebus’ at the Polar Museum in a room with an enormous polar bear skin splayed on the wall next to a fierce sign: CAUTION Do Not Touch This Pelt.

Not only has the poetry been inspiring but the museums have come alive in new ways. All the events are free, there are many more to come, check the Thresholds website regularly.

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