Roman Glass: Reflections on Cultural Change, a traveling exhibition that opened at the Bard Graduate Center on Thursday, March 23, 2000, illustrated how the craft of glassmaking was influenced by historical events and changing social values in the ancient Roman world. The exhibition featured more than 200 glass vessels—bowls, cups, jugs, and unguent bottles—dating from the late second century CE.

Roman Glass: Reflections on Cultural Change offered a new perspective and one that complemented the mission of the Bard Graduate Center by considering the decorative arts in a broad socioeconomic context. Breaking with the tradition of treating this ancient glassware as an exceptional art form, the exhibition instead placed glass in the more natural setting of a Roman household. Like pottery, glass came to be used in everyday life for all manner of domestic storage vessels and tableware, and for the small bottles that held the spices, perfumes and medicines which were so much a part of the Roman affluent lifestyle. Beginning with the changing technology and changing role of glass, the exhibition provided information and insight into culture and lifestyle in the ancient Roman Empire.

The glass artifacts in Roman Glass: Reflections on Cultural Change came from various archaeological sites, including Beth Shean (Israel) and St. Hermogenes (Cyprus), and they illustrated a remarkable range of forms and decorative elements. In addition to fine examples of glass, the exhibition featured several related items in pottery and bronze, together with text panels and maps.

Dr. Stuart Fleming, Scientific Director of the Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA) at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, was the curator of Roman Glass: Reflections on Cultural Change. Two books, both written by exhibition curator Dr. Fleming and published by University Museum Publications, accompanied the exhibition; Roman Glass: Reflections on Everyday Life explores the ancient uses of glass throughout the various routines of daily living, while Roman Glass: Reflections on Cultural Change explores the themes of the exhibition.


This exhibition was organized by and from the collections of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.