This collection can be described as the finest collection of its kind in the South and one of the finest in the nation. It contains Greek and Roman sculpture, Roman copies of famous Greek works of art, a superb group of Greek decorated pottery, ranging in date from 1500 BCE to 300 AD, inscriptions, architectural fragments, inscribed Sumerian cuneiform tablets, small works of art in terra cotta and bronze, and over 750 Greek and Roman coins.
Much of this material was brought to the University of Mississippi as the personal collection of Professor David M. Robinson, a world-renowned archeologist and teacher. Retired from Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Robinson came to teach at the University of Mississippi in 1949. During his years here, he continued to augment the collection, which became one of the greatest private collections of antiquities in this country. Upon his death in 1958, Robinson bequeathed his Roman sculptures to the University of Mississippi while the rest of his collection was divided between his widow, the late Helen Tudor Robinson, and Harvard University. Mrs. Robinson made several generous gifts and bequests to the University of Mississippi and, after her death in 1960, the remainder of her share of the collection was purchased and presented to the University of Mississippi by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Peddle Jr., of Oxford. At the request of Mrs. Robinson and the Peddles, all the antiquities are now identified as the David M. Robinson Memorial Collection.
The collection at the University of Mississippi is not only remarkable in artistic quality, but also in usefulness for teaching the culture and archeology of the ancient Mediterranean world. There is, for instance, a large and varied group of objects, ranging from wall plaster fragments to children’s toys, from the Greek city of Olynthos, which was excavated by Dr. Robinson between 1928 and 1938. Olynthos was destroyed by enemy action in 348 BCE, its population sold into slavery, and the houses and contents left undisturbed until excavators found the ruins. Olynthos is still a primary source of knowledge of Greek town planning and domestic life in the classical period. In recognition of this great contribution, the Greek government presented Dr. Robinson with a representative collection of objects from this excavation. This material provides an incomparable insight into the life of ordinary people in a prosperous Greek town.
With the help of generous friends, a number of other antiquities have been acquired by gift and purchase. Noteworthy among these are the collection of Roman glass purchased with funds donated by students and friends of the University of Mississippi, and the Roman surgical instruments acquired with the help of contributions from medical alumni of the University of Mississippi. The small but useful Egyptian antiquities were bought in 1962 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.