RAMM’s connection to Sir Alfred Biliotti

The research circle

For me as a Curator, one of the joys of the RAMM Leventis project is being able to spend time researching the collection. In the past, curators traditionally spent much of their working time doing research – usually detailed studies of very small and very specialist groups of objects in their museum’s collection. Many people assume this is what we still do today. But the modern-day curator has very little time to spend on this – our role is much more outward looking, we make collections accessible to visitors and enable other people to undertake research. But we can only make collections accessible if we know about the collections ourselves, what objects they contain, and why these objects are significant. It’s a never-ending circle – in order to enable other people to do research we have to ourselves undertake research, but we have little time to do that research as we are enabling others to do theirs… So, being able to justify time on research is a big bonus from this project – and I’ve discovered another interesting story.

An aryballos excavated by Sir Alfred Biliotti from Kameiros.

An aryballos excavated by Sir Alfred Biliotti from Kameiros.

Sir Alfred Biliotti

Around 45 Greek objects were given to us in 1887 by Mr CM Kennedy of 27 Kensington Gate, London. Many of these objects were “found at the site of the city of Cameiros, Rhodes” by “Billioti”. I was intrigued who this Biliotti was and why his objects came to us in Exeter, Devon, England. A quick web search led me to this really interesting article about Sir Alfred Biliotti, his life as a British diplomat and his interest in archaeology.

So who was Mr Kennedy?

It seems Biliotti spent 12 years excavating at Kamerios on Rhodes, and many of the objects he discovered were donated to the British Museum. But others ended up in our collection in Exeter, and they came to us via this Mr Kennedy.  I now need to try and discover who this Mr Kennedy was, and what link he had to us here in Exeter.  Was he a friend of Biliotti? Was he also a diplomat? Did he have a family connection to Devon? If any of you reading this has any information about CM Kennedy please get in contact!

A Cypriot red polished ware aryballos excavated from Kameiros by Alfred Biliotti.

A Cypriot red polished ware aryballos excavated from Kameiros by Alfred Biliotti.

Donating to Devon

The discovery of our link to Biliotti is yet another piece in the RAMM puzzle, showing that much of our Greek and Cypriot archaeology collection was originally collected by diplomats working for the British Empire. You can read about Cobham, another diplomat and one of RAMM’s important donors, in this earlier post. Many of these diplomats retired to the county of Devon. Today Devon still has a reputation as being somewhere nice to retire to  – I wonder what objects we’ll acquire in the future from these retired folk?


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