Glass has been made for thousands of years by many different cultures and civilizations. Because it can be shaped into a variety of forms and can be colored, it has been popular for items ranging from everyday objects to purely decorative items. In many ancient cultures it was often luxury good, used for jewelry and to make containers for precious oils and perfumes. Glass has been found dating back to Egypt’s 5th Dynasty, 4,500 years ago.
Through the centuries, improved manufacturing methods and architectural innovations meant that its use became more sophisticated. For example, the Romans used tiny bits of colored glass to make brightly colored mosaics that resemble murals. Later, it was used to make windows, including the brilliantly colored stained glass windows of Gothic cathedrals. The selection presented here, from the museum’s permanent collection, ranges from utilitarian bottles used in the Ancient Middle East, all the way to contemporary times, when glass is used to make purely aesthetic works of art sometimes known as “art glass.”