Obituary: Donald Harden
Friday 29 April 1994
Donald Harden's life was devoted in equal measure to museums and archaeology, with an interest centred more on artefacts than
Born in Dublin in 1901, Harden was of Anglo-Irish descent (his father was Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry). He was educated at Kilkenny College, Westminster School, and Trinity College, Cambridge. He pursued his interests in classical archaeology with travels in Italy and Tunisia in 1923-24, and, after a brief spell in the Department of Humanity at Aberdeen University, he became Commonwealth Fund Fellow at the University of Michigan, where he devoted himself to the study of the Roman glass from the university excavation of the Faiyum site of Karanis, in Egypt, and took part in the Michigan Archaeological Expedition to Egypt in 1928-29. His work on the Karanis glass became a doctoral thesis and was later published (in 1936) in a volume, Roman Glass from Karanis, which set new standards in the study of this attractive product of antiquity.
Harden's professional career opened with a long spell at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, first as assistant keeper and then as keeper in the Department of Antiquities from 1929 to 1956, with a break during the Second World War as a temporary civil servant. In 1956 he was appointed director of the London Museum at Kensington Palace, after its move there from Lancaster House; in pre-war years Mortimer Wheeler had established high standards of research and publication at the museum, and Harden, in active collaboration with Norman Cook of the Guildhall Museum, devoted his energies to the foundation of the new Museum of London, combining the two institutions, a natural consequence of the hectic campaign of the bombed sites of the City, before (sometimes as) they were destroyed by development. It was fitting that he should serve as acting director from 1965 until his retirement in 1970.
Harden's interests were not narrowly confined to ancient glass; a successful study, The Phoenicians (1962), revived an earlier interest and was twice re-issued, while Harden was a valued member of the committee superintending the British participation in the international excavation of Carthage. His numerous offices and duties to some extent limited his scholarly output; but retirement released his full energies for the study of ancient glass, of which he had long been recognised as the international master, following in the steps of the greatest German scholars in the field, Anton Kisa and Fritz Fremersdorf, but with a far wider range.
Harden's book on the Roman glass from Karanis was the first to treat systematically the finds from a single important site. This was the beginning of a lifetime's study of all aspects of ancient glass, ranging geographically over Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean, Europe, Britain and Ireland, and chronologically from prehistoric and Roman times to the Middle Ages. A list of his publications fills many pages; but some of the most important were the essays encapsulating his unsurpassed view of the history of Roman glass, which were written at the age of 86 for the catalogue of Glass of the Caesars (an exhibition of master works of Roman glass, shown in Corning, New York State, London, Cologne and Rome, in 1987-88).
In person Donald Harden displayed a neat, almost dapper appearance. His contributions to committees, especially on publication, were distinguished by a shrewd and well-balanced approach (sometimes trenchantly expressed), based on a wide knowledge of British and Mediterranean archaeology and its practitioners.
He had an extremely happy family life, and this was perhaps one reason why no young scholar appealed to him in vain.
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 Pornhub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Kanye West gives guest lecture at Oxford University: 'If I, Kanye West, can remove my ego, I think there's hope for everyone'
'This is what Islam tells us to do': A rare glimpse inside a Saudi Arabian prison – where Isis terrorists are showered with perks and privileges
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...
£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...