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Museum bums: Is Cambridge top of the bots in cheeky competition?

A cheeky campaign to find out which museum has the most bottoms on display in its galleries has declared a front runner in Cambridge.

Dr Susanne Turner. curator of the Museum of Classical Archaeology. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Susanne Turner. curator of the Museum of Classical Archaeology. Picture: Keith Heppell

The Museum of Classical Archaeology, which is filled with casts of Greek and Roman statues, has been praised by the Museum Bums account on Twitter.

The men behind the idea, heritage workers Mark Small and Jack Shoulder, are travelling the country to find out which institution has the biggest bottom collection. And, so far, the archive in Cambridge has beaten the British Museum.

Curator of the Museum of Classical Archaeology, Susanne Turner said: “Obviously we feel pride and vindication about this news. It’s a good giggle and before the guys arrived we had exchanged our favourite museum bums over Twitter.

“I hadn’t counted how many bottoms there were on display here because I didn’t want to ruin it, but we have quite a few because the Greeks and Romans liked their naked statues.”

Susanne’s favourite rear belongs to the statue Dionysus. “His bottom is very peachy,” she said. “But for a long time he was against a wall and we couldn’t see his bottom, which was a shame.

Museum of Classical Archaeology, Meleager. Picture: Keith Heppell. (6989200)
Museum of Classical Archaeology, Meleager. Picture: Keith Heppell. (6989200)

“When the sculptors made their statues they were meant to be seen in the round, so looking at the back of a work is very important.”

The Museum Bums account has been running for a couple of years and has won fans from museums around the world. In their day jobs, Jack and Mark both work in museums – in Eastbourne and Bristol respectively.

Jack said: “We have both been taking pictures of statues and other pieces of heritage in museums for a long time, including bums, and have been posting them on social media.

“They always got a great response so we decided to take it a bit further and start visiting places to check out the bum count on display. It’s bit of a cheeky way of looking at heritage and a reminder that there’s a lot of fun to be had in museums.”

After the visit on Monday (February 4), Mark declared: “The Museum of Classical Archaeology is top of the leaderboard in the #BigMuseumBumCount, with 16 more bums than the whole of the British Museum.

“We reckon they did so well because the subject matter – Greek and Roman statues – has a lot of nudity, but also the way the museum has used the space well to display as many casts, reliefs and statues as they can. And after doing some quick spreadsheet work, the museum also has the highest number of bums per square metre and highest number of bums per gallery.

“They’ll be hard to beat!”

Susanne explained that visitors should not be afraid to look at bums on statues and that there was a good reason to check them out.

“Looking at the back of a statue can help you to date it because during the changeover from the archaic period to the classical period – which was around 480 AD – sculptors started using a new pose.

“It is called contrapposto and is when the subject has their weight on one leg.

“This causes the hip to jut out and the body has to move to remain balanced. So when sculptors start using this way of posing the body they are thinking about what happens under the surface and how one set of muscles works with another.”

One way of spotting contrapposto is to look at the back of the statue. “If you see one bum cheek is higher than another, you have found it,” she says.

“One of the things we say to
our students and to visitors is go and look at the bums and see the work in the round.”

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