Breaking Ground, Breaking Tradition First Generation of Women Archaeologists

The Rise of a Department

There was no formal archaeology program when the College opened in 1885, but interest in the field was spurred by public lectures given by visiting professors from other institutions. Two especially notable lectures were William Hayes Ward's "Recent Discoveries in Assyria" in 1886 and Rodolfo Lanciani's "The Palace of the Caesars" in 1887.

In 1887, Arthur L. Frothingham, Jr. visited Bryn Mawr on a regular basis to deliver illustrated lectures on ancient architecture and archaeology. Frothingham was concurrently a lecturer of archaeology at Princeton University and the editor of the American Journal of Archaeology, which he had co-founded in 1885 with Allan Marquand, Princeton's first art history professor. Frothingham lectured fortnightly for five months and used drawings and the stereopticon to illustrate the lectures. The lecture series, listed in the 1887-88 course catalog under “Art,” was the first archaeology course offered by the College.

In 1896, the College organized a Department of History of Art and Archaeology and hired Richard Norton as the first full-time instructor. Norton was the son of Charles Eliot Norton, the first president of the Archaeological Institute of America and a founder of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in Greece. The younger Norton lectured on Greek and Italian art and archaeology at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He set up a seminar room for Art and Archaeology on the third floor of Taylor Hall, in which he placed locked cases for the exhibition of study photographs.

Joseph Clark Hoppin (1870-1925)

Norton’s successor, Joseph Clark Hoppin joined the faculty in 1899 and was an associate of classical art and archaeology until 1904. Hoppin changed the archaeology course offerings to emphasize the study of artifacts, the science of archaeology, and topography. Hoppin, a specialist in Greek vase painting, was also the first donor to the collection of antiquities that would ultimately grow into the Art and Artifact Collections. He donated his impressive personal collection of Attic black- and red-figure painted vases and sherds, which he had used at the College for teaching purposes.

Caroline Louise Ransom (1872-1952)

In 1904, Hoppin was succeeded by Caroline Louise Ransom, America's first professionally trained female Egyptologist. Ransom added courses in Egyptian art and archaeology to the College's curriculum and established a journal club for students interested in discussing the latest professional publications on sculpture, coins, and vases. She was also responsible for purchasing an important group of early teaching materials for the department, including a large number of albumen photographs of Egyptian sites and antiquities.