The association of Michael Ventris with the Institute of Classical Studies goes back to the founding of the Institute in 1953–54, when a special research seminar on ‘Minoan Linear B’ was established. Ventris addressed the first meeting of the seminar, which — 60 years on — continues to flourish as the Mycenaean Seminar Series, a leading international forum for Aegean prehistory.
The Ventris Papers were given to the Institute in 1988, following the death of Lois Ventris (Michael’s widow) in 1988. The archive comprises personal correspondence and papers, drawings, photographs, and other memorabilia, as well as selected offprints and newspaper cuttings relating to the decipherment. The present Catalogue, compiled as part of the Institute’s 50th Anniversary celebrations with a grant from the University of London Vice-Chancellor’s Development Fund, is available on SAS-space. In due course selected photographs and documents will be available digitally.
The Michael Ventris Memorial Fund was established in 1957 by the Institute of Classical Studies and the Architectural Association School to foster the work of young scholars, working in the fields of Mycenaean studies and architects. Further details of the annual award for Mycenaean Studies are available at our award page.
Mycenaean Seminar Archive
On 27 January 1954, just three months after the Institute of Classical Studies was established, the first ‘Minoan Linear B’ seminar took place. No records exist of this first seminar, but the second meeting onwards, formal Minutes were produced and circulated to members of the Seminar. The Minutes, which form the core of the Institute’s Mycenaean Archive, contained summaries of papers and discussions; they also listed recent bibliography and occasionally included what today we might call ‘breaking news’. Minutes were always intended as confidential documents – their circulation restricted to Members of the Seminar, whether resident in the UK or overseas.
By 1964 there was an increasing demand, especially from libraries and institutions, for copies of the Minutes. A circular dispatched to Members detailed arguments for and against wider circulation. Correspondence in the Archive reveals that opinions were sharply divided. The matter was carefully considered by the Management Committee – on the assumption that the Seminar had before it ‘several years’ of useful work. While minutes continued to be produced (until about 1971), circulation remained private. However, from the mid-1960s summaries of the seminar papers were published, subject to author’s permission, in the Institute’s Bulletin (BICS). From 1995 summaries of all papers and special lectures presented in the Mycenaean Seminar Series have appeared in BICS.
A brief account of the Seminar's history can be downloaded as a PDF; a complete list of Minutes/Summaries covering the first 50 years (1954-2004) will be appended in due course. The programme for the current academic year can be downloaded.
The Institute of Classical Studies houses an extensive photographic archive relating to Ancient Theatre, initiated by the late T. B. L. Webster in conjunction with his work on images relating to Old, Middle and New Comedy, as well as Greek tragedy and satyr plays, published as a series of BICS Supplements. A project aimed at digitizing the collection is underway. For further details see the Ancient Theatre Research Project page.