One of LMU’s most treasured collections is under threat of being downsized, and the repercussions of going forward with that would be disastrous for students, professors and the University's future.
The collection that's in such jeopardy belongs to the Archaeology Center, located in University Hall. To be more accurate, it's really several collections that could face downsizing, since the Center has so much variety in its artifacts.
According to the Center's official webpage, LMU currently houses a collection of prehistoric stone tools, another collection of Greek, Roman and Near Eastern coins and a collection of clay plaques from the reign of Hammurabi.
“Our unique collection … is indeed threatened with ‘downsizing,’ though the exact limits are unclear,” commented Matthew Dillon, a professor of classics and archaeology at LMU.
The Archaeology Center was started by Father Bill Fulco, who helped engage the LMU community on several different historical and archaeological topics during his time at the University, according to Bellarmine News.
"The abrupt retirement of Fr. Fulco last year, who was the founder of the collection, has brought on the necessity for change," explained Dillon, "and we’re negotiating our way through it as best we can."
"[Downsizing] is coming from the Dean's office," explained Caroline Sauvage, an associate professor of classics and archaeology at LMU and the current Director of the Archaeology Center. "That's mostly because through[out] the University there's a classroom problem."
According to Sauvage, the issue stems from there not being enough classrooms and offices for associate and part-time professors. This problem has become more evident for BCLA, especially in University Hall.
With regards to the Center, Sauvage said that it is most definitely losing one minor room, consisting of a coin collection and objects from Ancient Egypt and the Greco-Roman world. The plan is for those objects to be moved into the main three rooms of the Center.
While this might be just one room, and the collection of coins and other objects itself will still be on campus, this could still signal a dangerous trend as to how we prioritize our academic resources. What's to stop the ongoing need for more classrooms from encroaching on the Center's area, increasing the probability of more of the collection ending up in storage?
It's not just classics and archaeology majors that benefit from the Center's collection. Think of the art history majors taking an Arts of Greece course who could get an in-person look at the artwork mentioned in lecture by popping over to University Hall, instead of taking an hour-long ride to a museum downtown.
Any downsizing of the collection will turn potential first-years interested in archaeological research away, and there are other schools in the region like La Sierra University with archaeology departments that are happy to fight for these students' tuition.
So what can students do knowing that the Center is at risk? Short answer: use the resources there.
"I'm not sure a lot of people know what's happening," said Sauvage. "What can be done is [to] raise awareness of the collection we have, the fact that it's a collection that was made for the students to be able to do some real hands-on studies when they undertake courses."
People who are interested in learning about the ancient world or want to partake in this kind of research should register for these courses like CLAR 4370 to have a chance of handling these precious objects. Even students who aren't in research can still visit the collection to see everything that LMU has.
The importance of LMU’s archaeology collection cannot be understated. If the downsizing doesn't stop at this one room and crams precious artifacts into storage rather than keeping them out for display and study, then what we have right now will truly be lost to history.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a sophomore environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.