Cornell University once owned a collection of plaster casts of sculptures, gemstones and inscriptions from different cultures and periods such as the ancient Near East, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece and Rome (the majority), the European Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the 19th century. In addition, architectural models and details of architectural sculpture from the above-mentioned periods formed part of the collection together with more abstract drawing models for art students. This collection must have comprised about 800 pieces (excluding the ca. 1000 reproductions of gemstones), only a part of which has survived, often in very bad condition and distributed all over campus.
The present database has several goals: curatorial, didactic, documentary and scholarly. First, it will give an idea of what has been preserved and is a step towards reuniting the remaining holdings, at least on a virtual basis. Moreover, the database can serve as the starting point for further possible restoration of the casts, since it allows for assembling the fragments of destroyed sculptures that sometimes are stored in different locations. Once complete, the database will help students and faculty alike to familiarize themselves with major monuments and artworks of the past. The survey on campus to locate and document plaster casts is ongoing. Database and collection are continuously used in teaching. They also have served in preparing different curatorial projects in courses such as the Mellon seminars From Excavation to Exhibit or Connecting Research with Practice organized with the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.