The Plaster Cast Collection at Slater Memorial Museum is one of the finest, most complete collections of its type in the world. Installed and opened to the public in November of 1888, the collection was personally financed by William Slater who also provided the funds to construct the museum building; in total, the project amounted to $160,000. Initially there was no plan to install the collection of casts until the idea was recommended by NFA Head of School, Dr. Robert Porter Keep. As NFA’s third Head of School, Dr. Keep was a noted scholar in Classical antiquity and authored several textbooks in the field. He also served as a United States envoy to Greece prior to coming to NFA. The idea was further endorsed by Norwich native Daniel Coit Gilman, President of Johns Hopkins University.
On March 23, 1887, Edward Robinson, then in charge of the classical collection at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, was appointed to oversee the selection of sculptures to be duplicated as well as oversee the fabrication and installation of the casts within the museum. Robinson chose some of the best works known to exist including the famous Nike of Samothrace which had recently been permanently installed in the Louvre in 1883. In 1888, a catalog of the museum’s collection was first compiled by the museum’s first curator, Henry Watson Kent, and then briefly revised in 1905 by Curator Nancy M. Pond. The collection represents thousands of years of Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Renaissance aesthetic and is a staple of the museum’s goal of serving as a premiere educational resource for Norwich Free Academy and the community.
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