Ruth Allen joins Carlos Museum as curator of Greek and Roman art

By Allison Hutton | Emory Report | Nov. 26, 2019

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Ruth Allen has joined Emory as the curator of Greek and Roman art at the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Meet her at AntiquiTEA on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

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The Michael C. Carlos Museum has welcomed Ruth Allen as the new curator of Greek and Roman art. Born and educated in the U.K., Allen brings to the Carlos exceptional academic credentials, strong curatorial experience and a knack for engaging with the public.

Allen received her BA in classics from the University of Cambridge, her MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute and her PhD from the University of Cambridge. She has held curatorial positions in the Antiquities Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum, where she contributed to the development of three international loan exhibitions, and at the British Museum, where she researched and catalogued their collection of Roman glass gems. 

Allen co-curated “The Classical Now” at King’s College London, “Recasting: Classical Casts and Contemporary Art” at the Cambridge Museum of Classical Archaeology and “Classicicity: Ancient Art, Contemporary Objects” at Breese Little, London. 

Most recently a visiting academic at the Institute of Classical Studies in London, Allen also has worked as an undergraduate supervisor for the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge and as a department administrator for the Department of Antiquities at Christie’s, London.

We spoke to Allen about her interest in the classical world, what she enjoys most about being a curator, her first impressions of the Carlos Museum and what she’s looking forward to here. 

From the ruins of Knossos to the halls of Cambridge

“My interest in the classical world was first piqued on a family holiday to Crete when I was 11 years old. Visiting the ruins of Knossos and the extraordinary collections of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum opened my eyes to the material wonders of the ancient Mediterranean, but it wasn’t until I began to learn Latin at secondary school that I discovered the joys of truly immersing oneself in the study of the classical world. I’m also very lucky to have been taught and supported by a series of remarkable female classicists who have nurtured my curiosity and shown me how the subject can be as much about shining a light onto our own society and culture as onto that of 2,000 years ago. This is certainly what set me on the path to studying classics at Cambridge, to pursuing my doctorate and ultimately to a curatorial career.”

From discovery to delivery

“My favorite aspect of being a curator is undoubtedly the opportunity the job brings to combine research with storytelling: to study an object in minute detail—whether in terms of its physical makeup, its original use or its many potential afterlives—and to share those stories with others. I am always learning from colleagues, from students and from the public, and that is also a great pleasure.” 

From the U.K. to Atlanta

“I was incredibly excited by the passion and enthusiasm of everyone I met during my first visit to the Carlos, and by the museum’s commitment to finding novel, even challenging, ways of inspiring interest in the collection and in different peoples and civilizations more broadly. I’m thrilled to be joining such a creative, outward-looking community where students, faculty, and the public are so warmly invited to indulge their curiosity.” 

“The Carlos’s collection of Greek and Roman art is important and widely celebrated, and I am of course looking forward to getting to know it better and to promoting it further. To that end, we already have some exciting exhibition projects and public events planned. Beyond the Carlos, I’m eager to explore Atlanta and can’t wait to make the city my home (especially because I’ve heard that the pie is very good).”