On June 11, 2007, the eighth grade Latin students of Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School in New Jersey hosted a “Latin Museum” for their fellow students, faculty, and administration. The purpose of the Latin Museum was to showcase the projects and cultural studies undertaken by students in the seventh and eighth grade Latin classes, and in select Bridgewater-Raritan High School Latin classes. Visitors passed through a strobe-lit “time machine” to find themselves carried back to the countries included within the Roman Empire: Greece, Italy, Britain, and Egypt. Exhibits were designed to demonstrate the variety of artwork, religious diversity, and cultural contributions of each of these regions. Under the direction of Dr. Kimberle Gray, the students were responsible for designing, curating, hosting, and giving tours of their museum. The final exhibit featured in the day-long museum was a booth promoting the work of SAFE.
The museum had as its theme the plight of looted antiquities. Using models that they made in their classes of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Dr. Gray’s eighth graders explained to visitors that the only wonder surviving today, the Great Pyramid of Giza, was itself repeatedly looted; not only were the pharaoh’s mummy and grave goods removed, but even the white limestone casing covering the pyramid was plundered. Likewise, monuments that were destroyed by natural causes, such as the Colossus of Rhodes that toppled due to earthquakes, were subsequently sold off in pieces to merchants.
Students consistently reminded visitors that looting of antiquities happens around the world today, and is not restricted to ancient tomb robbers. A DVD presentation, PowerPoint program, and SAFE’s illustrated World’s Ancient Cultures in Danger Map of endangered sites around the world highlighted for visitors the numerous archaeological sites currently threatened by looting today. A student-made display, featuring red”SAFE” buttons and assorted “looted antiquities” postcards, provided small “thank-you” gifts to the many visitors who donated to SAFE’s efforts. As visitors exited the museum, they each were handed a flyer of “did you know?” facts, enumerating the costs, both financial and cultural, of looting activities today.