Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


Art History

Committee Chair

Rhonda Reymond

Committee Co-Chair

Kristen Harkness

Committee Member

Kristina Olson

Committee Member

Janet E Snyder


In 1846, the British polymath Austen Henry Layard began archaeological excavations in the mounds of ancient Assyria, approximately twenty miles south of the modern day city of Mosul, Iraq. Uncovering artifacts almost immediately, Layard's discoveries were sent to the British Museum, where they were first displayed in 1847. Academic research on this scenario has recently experienced a great resurgence, with works such as Frederick Bohrer's seminal, Orientalism and Visual Culture, and Shawn Malley's thorough, From Archaeology to Spectacle in Victorian Britain, exploring the vast social and political connections that existed between Layard, the British Museum and the British State. But, while these works (and others) have aided in pushing the boundaries of social art history, archaeological pedagogy and postcolonial and exoticist discussion, they have somewhat neglected discourse on the actual objects which Layard discovered. As such, little has been published on how Layard's discoveries were presented in exhibitory display. Therefore, in employing primary source material from newspapers, journals and periodicals, as well as contemporary art theory, this thesis will investigate how Assyrian art objects were displayed at the British Museum in 1847, 1849 and 1851, at the Sydenham Palace in 1854, and in British India in 1846. Focusing specifically on the space that the displays were given and the individual objects included in each display, this thesis will examine how the Assyrian artifacts struggled against unknown historical context and interpretive value, to become an integral and sensational part of art and culture in the nineteenth century.