Study Day: The Work and Legacies of Charles Thomas Newton

12 June 2023, 10:00 am–6:00 pm

A black and white portrait artists impression of Sir Isaac Newton

A cross disciplinary approach looking at the career and impact of the curator and classical archaeologist, Charles Thomas Newton, 1816 – 1894.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Queenie Lee


Room G17, IAS Forum
Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building
Gower Street, London

A scholarly account of the work and impact of Charles Thomas Newton is long overdue. Newton was a well-known figure of authority on archaeology and the classical world in the mid to late Victorian period in Britain and beyond. Connected with an overwhelming number of public figures, whether in art (G. F. Watts, Mary Severn), criticism (John Ruskin), politics (William Gladstone) or museums (Antonio Panizzi and Henry Cole), Newton left an ambivalent legacy. The claims he made about the discovery of the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos were later found to be at best exaggerated, at worst untrue, and his writing (and actions) record mixed, and in some cases racist, attitudes to the peoples across the Ottoman Empire and modern Greece. Newton spent most of his life in the British Museum but cannily networked across clubs, societies and institutions to develop new means of acquiring antiquities, including through military expeditions. 

Research to understand the importance and future of contested collections is linked to understanding the role of personalities that shaped the collecting history of the nineteenth century. This study day will bring together a cross-disciplinary group of academics, museum professionals and archaeologists to consider Newton’s work and profound influence. 
Not only did Newton pursue the acquisition of antiquities for the national museum through various methods, but more importantly, his advice and actions shaped the collecting history of this country during the Victorian period. Indeed, his views influenced the way the British Museum developed into the institution we know today, and were important for the development of a number of institutions and networks such as the Hellenic Society and the British School of Archaeology in Athens. 

The day begins with an introduction posing questions that we hope to cover during the day, 3 panel sessions and a provocation, which will set Newton into the wider context of nineteenth century Britain. The last section of the day will take place at the British Museum with an introduction to the archives, artwork, antiquities and the stores related, in one way or another, to Charles Thomas Newton. 

An agenda will be added nearer to the date with full details of the room and accessibility.

About the Speakers

Dr Debbie Challis

Events Producer and Historian at Portico Library Manchester

Debbie is author of Archaeology of Race. The Eugenic Ideas of Francis Galton and Flinders Petrie (2013) and From the Harpy Tomb to the Wonders of Ephesus: British Archaeologists in the Ottoman Empire 1840-1880 (2008). She has published on Charles Newton’s relationship with John Ruskin, his writing on ancient art and on the artist Mary Severn Newton, Newton’s wife, in Gabriel Moshenska and Claire Lewis (eds), Life Writing in the History of Archaeology: Critical Approaches (forthcoming 2023). She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Researcher on the Milesian Tales Project at the University of Liverpool. In addition, she has curated exhibitions, writes for non specialist publications and produces public engagement events.

Correspondence address: drdebbie@gmail.com

More about Dr Debbie Challis

Dr Lucia Patrizio Gunning

Historian and Lecturer at University College London

Lucia is author of The British Consular Service in the Aegean and the Collection of Antiquities for the British Museum (2009 & 2018), and ‘Cultural diplomacy in the acquisition of the head of the Satala Aphrodite for the British Museum’ (2021), Journal of the History of Collections. She has experience in conference organization and editorial work for post conference publication. Her book: Invisible Reconstruction, Volume 1 (UCL Press, 2022) edited with Paola Rizzi, comprises cross disciplinary responses to natural, biological and man-made disasters following her 2019 international conference. She is now working on a second volume based on anthe 2021 international conference of cross disciplinary responses to disaster and sustainable resilience; a collaboration between University College London, the Institute of Disaster Mitigation for Urban Cultural Heritage- Ritsumeikan University Kyoto, UNIS (University of Sassari, Italy) and UNIVAQ (Università degli Studi, L’Aquila). 

Correspondence address: l.gunning@ucl.ac.uk

More about Dr Lucia Patrizio Gunning

Dr Thomas Kiely

A.G. Leventis Curator for Ancient Cyprus at British Museum

Dr Thomas Kiely, A.G. Leventis Curator for Ancient Cyprus, Department of Greece and Rome, British Museum; Honorary Lecturer, Institute of Archaeology, UCL. Thomas directs the Cyprus Digitisation Project which aims to digitise and disseminate the British Museum’s ancient Cypriot collections and related archives (including the history of the collection). He has edited an edition of the Kourion Notebook as part of a Festschrift for Veronica Tatton-Brown, and co-authored (with Vassos Karageorghis, and others) a restudy of the finds from the Cyprus Exploration Fund excavations at Salamis-Toumba in 1890 (Nicosia, Cyprus Institute, 2019). He is currently co-editing (with Lindy Crewe, CAARI, Nicosia and Anna Reeve, ICS, a collected volume of papers entitled Empire and Excavations. Critical perspectives on archaeology in British-period Cyprus, 1878-1960 (to be published by Sidestone) and working on an edition of correspondence between excavators and collectors in Cyprus and personnel in the British Museum (Charles Newton, Samuel Birch, and others). Thomas also sits on the scientific committee of the Cahier de Centre d’Études Chypriotes.

Correspondence address: tkiely@britishmuseum.org

More about Dr Thomas Kiely