Brian Shefton, born Bruno Benjamin Scheftelowitz in Cologne, Germany, was a highly regarded classical archaeologist. In 1933 his family fled to England to escape the Nazi persecution of Jews. Bruno went on to study Classics at Oxford, where his passion for classical archaeology was ignited. After World War II he travelled for several years in Greece, carrying out archaeological research, before returning to England. He spent most of his subsequent academic career at Newcastle University, becoming Professor of Greek Art and Archaeology in 1979.
Shefton’s life was distinguished by his limitless curiosity and fascination with the objects of Ancient Greece and this is reflected in the collection he created.
Starting in 1955 with three ancient Greek pots, Brian Shefton built up a collection, over the next 50 years, of almost 1,000 Greek and Etruscan objects. These are now on display in the Shefton Gallery of the Great North Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne. Many objects once belonged to other collections dating back to the eighteenth century; their stories demonstrate changing attitudes to the collecting and display of Greek art and archaeology.
The collection is unique in having an intact archive containing thousands of documents detailing Shefton’s life, collecting and research. The archive helps to reconstruct the history of the collection and the ‘life stories’ of its objects. Current research,
in collaboration with the Great North Museum, is developing new insights into how and why the collection was established, by uncovering the contexts and uses of the artefacts within antiquity, the more recent past and the present.