Thursday, June 8 // Concluding the study & final sightseeing

There is so much to say at the end of this study. First of all, the study went really well and Selena was a huge help! I wanted to have at least 45 vessels drawn by the end. Without Selena, I would only have had about 21 illustrations ready to be inked (that is finalized for the final publication). So, of course, a huge thank you to Selena and also kudos for learning and working with an entirely new skill set.

Second, the study is likely to continue next year, as I finalize all the details and make sure everything is correct before heading into the writing and publication phase.

As a side note, as we finished up the week, we also were able to attend the opening of a new special exhibition at the Heraklion Museum that looks at the similarities between the development of Minoan art and early Japanese art. Since both cultures emerged as island nations, there were a lot of comparisons. We were able to attend the opening remarks by the directors of the Heraklion Museum and the National Museum in Japan. It also included remarks by the Japanese ambassador and the Governor of Crete. It ended with a private guided tour in both languages with the directors of the exhibition.

Japanese Ambassador speaking to the audience at the opening of the Exhibition “Legacies of Beauty” on display until the end of Sept. 2023 at the Heraklion Museum.

We ended the entire trip by taking a full day to do some sightseeing. We headed to Rethymno on Saturday for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. The city of Rethymno is also the home of the University of Crete and an ancient Venetian fortress. We didn’t have enough time to do everything, but there were certainly some lovely streets and views along the way.

Part of the Venetian fortress and port at Rethymno, Crete.


Tuesday, June 6 // Focus on Ancient Pottery

Example illustration, drawn by Columbia College graphic design student Selena Houk.

We’ve now been in the museum for just over a week and a half! We still have several vessels left to draw, and we probably will not quite finish everything up. 

This week has been all about the pottery and not much else, but we’re seeing how some of the larger pots were constructed almost 4,000 years ago. 

We are also well into the groove and we’re noticing different patterns as a result of the illustrations. Archaeological illustrations are extremely useful because they provide important details like profiles of the vessels, dimensions and decorative details that might otherwise be hard to see (see example above).

The illustrations will eventually make their way into the final publication of the cemetery, which will be used by other researchers and scholars to make comparisons. 

We’ll be finishing up on Friday of this week and then hoping to visit a beach before heading out of Heraklion.

Visual Arts & Music Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Ursprung Nerling.


Friday, June 2 // Weekend Fun!

Venetian Loggia in center of town. Photo by Dr. Laura Ursprung Nerling.

On Saturday, May 27, we rested up from our first week in the museum, which had been hectic with something new every single day. So, on Saturday, we largely explored the town, went to the port, looked around at the shops and relaxed for the first time since beginning the study.

On Sunday, May 28, we went to the ancient site of Knossos (legendary home of King Minos of Crete, Princess Ariadne, Theseus and the Minotaur. We spent a couple of hours exploring the site, which is extensive and also the 2nd largest tourist attraction in Greece just behind the Parthenon in Athens.

Next week (May 29-June 4), we will move into a slightly more rhythmic groove as we work through the remaining vessels.

Laura and Selena at Knossos. Photo by Dr. Laura Ursprung Nerling.


Tuesday, May 30 // Update from Selena

Columbia College graphic design student Selena Houk works on her pottery. Photo by Dr. Laura Ursprung Nerling.

This has been a really rewarding internship so far. I’ve had the opportunity to see a different country, full of history and culture, and been able to interact with that history firsthand, drawing ancient pottery from about 2,000 B.C. found in Pacheia Ammos, Greece.

Each day, I feel like I’m learning a new technique on how to draw pottery since there’s such a variety and quantity of things we’re trying to document. Not only am I learning about how pottery was made back then, but I’m also learning a bit about the Greek government, getting permissions and how it’s working with a museum (it’s a lot more intensive than I would have imagined!).

Greece itself, Heraklion specifically, is an interesting city. There are a lot of boutique shops and restaurants fitted between apartments and grocery stores. In all honesty, it reminds me a bit of Bleecker Street in Manhattan, New York, with slightly fewer people; normal life happening while the city buzzes.

So far, my favorite parts have been the window shopping, since they have high-end and local stores side-by-side, and the food (one restaurant pictured below), where we’ve been given a dessert on the house at the end of almost every meal. Some things that I could live without are people not picking up after their dogs (which they don’t tell you about in the travel blogs) and Greek coffee, while strong (a definite plus), isn’t filtered so all the grounds were at the bottom.

All in all, this has been a really great experience!


Tuesday, May 23 // We’ve Arrived to Greece!

Good morning, Columbia College!

We’re here! And today (Monday, May 22), we begin the museum study. The museum has a long and rich history. The original museum was set up when archaeology was only a nascent discipline and it has been through several earthquakes and thus different physical versions since 1878!

Exterior shot of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Photo by Discover Greece (

As it was the only storage facility for antiquities in 1915 (the year the objects we will be studying were found), everything was brought to this location.

We’re thrilled to get started and see what’s in store for us!

Visual Arts & Music Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Ursprung Nerling and Columbia College graphic design student Selena Houk begin their work at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.


Thursday, May 18 // Introduction from Dr. Ursprung Nerling

Good morning, Columbia College!

Visual Arts & Music Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Ursprung Nerling.

As a quick introduction, for those of you who I haven’t yet had in class, my name is Dr. Laura Ursprung Nerling. This summer, I’ll be working with a graphic design student, Selena Houk, on a museum project studying an ancient cemetery located on the island of Crete in Greece.

This cemetery was originally excavated in 1913 by archaeologist Richard B. Seager in the village of Pacheia Ammos (pictures below), but the resulting study didn’t provide much detail.

Selena and I will be documenting all of the remaining vessels and preparing them for book publication. This means studying them, analyzing them, photographing them and drawing them.

We’ll be starting in the museum on Monday, May 22, and providing the Columbia College community with updates along the way! Of course, this isn’t just about the museum, as we’ll also do a little traveling and exploring along the way so we should have a lot of really exciting pictures from Greece and Crete to share with you.

Stay tuned as we arrive, study and explore abroad!

Village of Pacheia Ammos from above. Photo by Dr. Laura Ursprung Nerling.


Village of Pacheia Ammos beach front where the cemetery had been located. Photo by Dr. Laura Ursprung Nerling.