The Plaster Cast Collection

The Slater Memorial Museum, dedicated in 1886 as a memorial to John Fox Slater, was a gift from his son, William A. Slater, to the Trustees of the Norwich Free Academy, Norwich, Connecticut, Designed by architect Stephen C. Earle, the Romanesque structure was in use when Mr. Slater donated additional funds to finance the acquisition of a collection of Greek, Roman and Renaissance casts for the museum. The initial idea for such a collection was suggested by the Norwich Free Academy’s third principal, Dr. Robert Porter Keep, a noted Greek scholar and author of several textbooks in the field, including the then widely used Greek Lessons. Endorsement for the project was also generated by former 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, accepted the appointment to select, purchase and install in the museum a collection of casts from renowned works of antiquity. The selection of casts was made with extreme care; only the very finest works available were chosen. Plaster replicas were viewed by the connoisseur with the same reverence and solemnity that the original works would have evoked. Moreover, in the 19th century, America witnessed the burgeoning of museums and libraries which fostered the belief in a classical education. A hundred years later, the Slater cast collection, one of the three largest in the country, is considered by many to be the best of its kind. As one of two fine arts museums in the United States on the campus of a secondary school, the museum’s role for the furtherance of teaching the humanities is as strong a commitment today as it was when the extensive cast collection was officially dedicated in November of 1888.

In 1888 a catalog of the museum’s collection was first compiled by the Curator, Henry Watson Kent, and then briefly revised in 1905 by Curator Nancy M. Pond. The current catalog was designed as a serviceable handbook; therefore, the Latin nomenclature for most known figures of antiquity has been used.