Written by Rebecca Hopley – A Level Classical Civilisation student at Loreto
Fifty years after Kenneth Clark’s original, the BBC has returned with a new and improved edition of ‘Civilisations’, a nine-part BBC series introducing a new generation of viewers to a complete history of art spanning from 80,000 years ago, through to ancient Greece and 18th and 19th century Japan. Headed by historians, Mary Beard, Simon Schama and David Olusoga, the series offers different perspectives on such a subjective topic like art, as no one person looks at art the same way.
This spring, myself and other Loreto College Classical Civilisation students had the opportunity to attend the north-west launch of the new series which was held at Manchester Art Gallery where two of three presenters attended, Simon Schama and David Olusoga, in company with Dr Janina Ramirez, along with members of the production and IT creation team. Prior to entering the theatre, students were given the chance to test out a prototype AR camera system, allowing them to inspect artefacts in a virtual realm and so in a more detailed way than a simple picture can do. This technology provoked thought about the future study of classical antiquity as it presents students with the chance to investigate and explore all dimensions of the AR artefact from locations remote to its actual locality.
During the launch, students were invited to view a number of video clips of the series prior to it being released to the public, alongside with an insightful commentary from the presenters themselves, revealing aspects of the filming and research process, such as the presenters nearly being flattened by a charging horse whilst filming drone scenes in Petra. We students also had the opportunity to ask questions to the team, where two Classical Civilisation Loreto students asked questions, including what the historians aimed to achieve with this new version of ‘Civilisations’ and the presenters’ opinion on the location of the Parthenon sculptures, mainly housed in the British Museum and not their place of origin, the Acropolis in Athens.
The experience was unique and very useful for the art and architecture element of the A level course offered at Loreto College, as well as sparking interest in other elements of art history that we do not cover, such as the Japanese artwork of Hokusai and the Benin Bronzes. In a subject that we understand through images, historical accounts of travellers and traders, and the work of historians, an experience like this is incredibly useful and the classical civilisation students who attended are more than thankful that we were so generously given the opportunity to attend.